A recent survey suggested that the job of technical writer ranked #13 in a “Best jobs for 2010” list:
Commenting on this, a poster on LinkedIn‘s Technical Writer Forum wondered if technical writing had turned a corner and was now a recognised occupation.
Personally, I don’t think technical writing has turned that corner just yet. The profession/trade is in the process of turning the corner, but it’s still difficult for many people to see the value in employing someone to do something when they can kinda still do that something themselves. Or they know someone who’s “a good writer”, who’ll perambulate through their text/documentation; i.e. everyone thinks they’re somewhat able to write and document, with little need to employ someone especially for the job.
(\puh-RAM-byuh-layt\, intransitive verb: 1. To walk about; to roam; to stroll; as, “he perambulated in the park.” transitive verb: 1. To walk through or over. 2. To travel over for the purpose of surveying or inspecting.)
This instinct people have is somewhat true: almost everybody can construct a grammatically correct sentence. But being able to wire a plug doesn’t make you an electrician, no more than removing a thorn from your finger makes you a surgeon.
So, what do technical writers do that makes them valuable? Well, when it comes to editing and re-writing text, they omit useless words. Seemingly simple, yet there’s a little more to it than that. The following link is a chapter taken from a book called ‘Line by Line: How to edit your own writing’ and it contains examples aplenty of what technical writer’s do to make text/documentation more concise and more readable: