The Technical Communicator

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    As an addendum to the previous post on Tips For A Training Manual, I have to add that communicating information face-to-face is difficult and is even more challenging when you communicate via text. Whether you are writing user manuals, online help, technical documents or release notes for software applications, you need to have certain attributes to be an effective Technical Communicator. Attributes such as:

    1) Having technical excellence in understanding the product. The Technical Communicator has to be knowledgeable about the product; its functions and fall-backs in order to write and convey its benefits, requirements, etc.

    2) Being analytical and logical (in order to explain soundly what is occurring; the why and the how). This is exceptionally needed when performing quality assurance tasks or creating test plans.

    3) Understanding the organizations surroundings or the environment; its culture. The writer has to be alert and be able to use intuitive feelings to see and grasp certain conditions or situations to communicate what is needed; a content strategist. An example is when an organization does not realize that additional types of documents are needed, e.g., when a company with many writers in different departments would benefit from a style guide.

    4) Being aware of the user’s experience, i.e., how they can use the application software or product. With this in mind, it’s not just, e.g., describing how to navigate from one screen to another. It’s about clarifying and detailing what the user needs to know, as well as taking into consideration how users operate.

    5) Understanding the client. This attribute is especially needed within global organizations to prevent misunderstandings leading to product errors.

    6) Understanding the SME (Subject Matter Expert). This is crucial for being able to translate details, e.g., business processes or data requirements.

    7) Having interviewing, listening, and collaborating skills. Knowing how to paraphrase a question to get the appropriate response, understanding what is being conveyed, and being able to interact with individuals to gather your data, respectively, are necessary interpersonal social skills

    8) Being organized. Managing and keep track of all the information that needs to be explained is not an easy task. Being methodical will aid in creating structured concise documents.

    9) Being a designer. Technical Communicators are visual designers too. They have to be able to know the audience well enough to customize and present the documents in an appealing creative manner.

    10) Writing capably. Writing is not just about grammar and vocabulary. To communicate technically via writing, the information has to be detailed, clear, concise, and complete.

    11) Being adaptable. Having flexibility is needed for last minute changes and for cases when unforeseen events cause new incidents. Constant changes occur all the time. The communicator has to be flexible enough to accept these changes and to make necessary adjustments. Being adaptive is also being able to adapt to how you relate to your audience.

    Bringing all the above together, presents an effective Technical Communicator.

    What other attributes would you add to be an effective Technical Communicator?