Technical Communications

I’ve been wondering about the difference between Technical Writing and Technical Communications. When people ask what you do, do you say “Tech Communicator” or “Tech Writer”? Everybody knows what a Tech Writer is, not many people have heard of a Technical Communicator. (Just look at Tina the Tech Writer on Dilbert!)

But the college degrees out there aren’t in Technical Writing, they’re in Technical Communications. You learn so much more than writing. You learn many different skills that you need for today’s market. For instance, since I’ve started taking classes for my Masters degree, I’ve learned how to make a podcast, a screen cast, a tutorial in Captivate, a decent PowerPoint presentation, and a proper project schedule in MS Project. And this is all on top of the writing topics in XML to DITA standards, writing properly cited term papers, and all about UX. There are terms I had heard before (like Information Architecture) that are a part of writing, but not the nuts and bolts of putting pen to paper.

There’s currently a discussion going on about the new paradigm of technical communications. Are we still writers? Yes, but that’s just a fraction of what we do. Are we communicators? Yes, but that’s not all. We are so diverse and multi-talented that it is hard to explain who we are and what we do. But, until we come up with a new term, Technical Communicators will have to do.

What do you think we should be called? What’s your opinion on the “technical writers / technical communicators” shift? Comments are always welcome!

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4 thoughts on “Technical Communications

  1. Hi,

    I’m pursuing a graduate certificate in ‘Technical Communication’ from Seneca College, Toronto.

    You are absolutely correct that most recruiters and employers are familiar with the term “Tech Writing” and not “Technical Communication” and even then the courses in college and universities are about Technical Communication.

    As far as I know, Technical Writing is a subset of Technical Communication. Technical Communication is a mothership for Instructional Designing, e-learning, courseware preparation, Technical Writing, API Documentation, web-copy writing and even business communication.

    I use the term technical communicator only when I am talking to another technical writer. My resume and Linkedin profile still says Technical Writer. I’m proud to be one!

    -Gurpreet Singh
    http://TechnicalWritingToolbox.com (A blog on Technical Writing)

    • Hi Gurpreet,
      I agree – my LinkedIn profile also says “Technical Writer” – and I am proud of my job!
      I just thought the question should be posed.
      Thanks,
      – Pidge

  2. I would prefer to be called a technical writer no matter which of those exact functions I perform. I think the word “communicator” is too vague and open to misinterpretation. You could say that the booth babes at a consumer electronics trade show are technical communicators. After all, they are giving out what is supposed to be information about items that are technologically advanced.

    • Hi Keith,
      I agree. I would never want to be confused with those “booth babes”!!
      And I have Technical Writer on my profiles, and I’m not about to change it.
      Thanks for the comment!
      – Pidge

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