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Tuesday, October 11, 2022

Collaborate, Collaborate, Collaborate

Someone recently asked me if a technical writer is someone who collaborates with SMEs and takes technical jargon to make it into plain, easy-to-understand language. I responded with a resounding yes. They were happy with this response because others have told them otherwise. 

I don't understand why some are trying to change the definition of a technical writer. If I had to venture a guess, it might be they're trying to make a technical writer "a more valuable" role. But these changes tend to be (not always) counterinituitive, confusing, and overstepping. And, if you keep changing the definition, the role of technical writer ceases to be.

It's true we technical writers might do more than what this person asked me. I have. But at the heart of technical writing, besides writing concise, clear sentences, is collaboration, collaboration, collaboration.

Collaboration with the SMEs is the lifeblood of technical writing. Everything flows from this effort. Without it, you have no documentation. (Or at best, stilted, inaccurate, and myopic ones.) 

This type of writing is a joint effort. Unless you're creating the tool by yourself, you don't make up text out of the thin air. Technical writing is based something else greater than the writing itself. And someone almost always has created this something else. So your job as a technical writer is to collaborate with that someone, also known as a SME, to take that technical information of this something they created to make it clear, so your audience can easily understand it. 

As a technical writer, you not only have to continuously sharpen your writing skills but also master the art of collaboration. This skill many lack. When you can collaborate well with others, you've already added greater value to your role. How well anyone can collaborate can make or break documentation (or even an organization itself).

The challenge is taking other perspectives on the same information and present it in a unifying voice through documentation. But that's also the fun and rewarding part. 

Through collaboration, you end up creating something better you can imagine. We're only limited by our own thinking. So when we work with others, it expands our mind to where we can take the documentation. And when you publish a document, it should not just give us a sense of accomplishment but also help us stay grounded and humble, since it's a team effort.

You have to lay aside your ego as a technical writer. Otherwise, you have no business being a technical writer. If anyone is telling you otherwise, especially if they come from within our circles, we need to push back and say no. 

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