24 Jul Engineers vs. Seasoned Technical Writer?
Make no mistake; engineers are a crucial component to turning out quality documentation for your end-users, but are they the best resource? An age-old question that many “technical” companies have dealt with for many a moon.
Now, to be clear, technical writing incorporates a few basic concepts. First, the writer must have the ability to understand the “technical” jargon presented to them by technical staff. Secondly, the technical writer should be able to regurgitate that technical information in the form of clear, concise documentation. Lastly, the writer must ensure all documentation meets a standardized set of rules. By doing so, it ensures all documentation leaving the company has the same look, feel, and branding). Sounds easy enough, doesn’t it?
An Overview of Engineers
More often than not, engineers are required to write procedures, manuals, reports, etc., for “their” own projects. Now imagine a company with five engineers, ten engineers, or even 100 engineers. Each engineer is responsible for putting out their own documentation. This could mean that your company is now represented in 100 different ways or more; finding each documentation set incorporating a different engineers’ vision for quality documentation.
Engineers are not writers, and if you asked most of them how they like writing, I’m confident that most would reply, “I hate it.” Furthermore, engineers have trouble at times writing to their audience’s level and understanding that the folks using their documentation may not have their level of education. Engineers enjoy designing new concepts, redesigning old designs, and finding solutions to problems. In short, engineers do not aspire to be writers and most that I have met in my 35 years absolutely detest writing!
An Overview of Technical Writers
Seasoned technical writers are worth their weight in gold, IF they genuinely know their stuff and can provide assistance without the need for constant hand-holding. Let’s face it; there is no substitute for experience, plain and simple. Seasoned technical writers have experience and expertise in their chosen industry and can speak intelligently about the industry in which they work.
Seasoned technical writers should be able to take the engineer’s information and develop (with the end-user in mind) clear, concise documentation that genuinely benefits the reader instead of leaving them surrounded by a shroud of doubt and uncertainty. Of course, there will be times when technical writers and engineers must interact but that time is precious and shouldn’t be wasted on hand-holding. Becoming a Subject Matter Expert (SME) is key, and mastering the content is paramount!
So…Engineers or Seasoned Technical Writers?
I suppose, at the end of the day, that depends on what outcome you want. A seasoned Technical Writer will leave you with professionally developed documentation that checks all the boxes and adheres to a standard set of formatting rules. An engineer could possibly achieve the same results but at what cost? There’s a good chance the engineer will have to set aside their core competency to provide the documentation. If you can afford to relegate your engineers to technical writing tasks, then I can only say “carry on.” If you would prefer to save time, money, and headaches, then I suggest seeking out a seasoned Technical Writer; You will be glad you did!