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Writing is “Spesheil”
2013, Q1 (April 02, 2013)
By Priti Thakur, Volunteer Writer

Priti Thakur
Priti Thakur
“Once upon a time when I was walking and talking with my friends I spoted a robot. Then I ran quickley to it. I said hello to her. She said hello back. I new she was alive. Then I said WOW! Next I showed my friends and they shouted WOW also. After that I took her to my family. They screemed WOW too. I named my robot Roseabell. Her job is to tuk me in bed. She loves to play hopscotch. She is spesheil because she loves prinsessis.”

For those starting to panic, let me mention that this was written by my first grader, attempting to write a short story in class. Even with all the obvious mistakes, her writing showed her personality and made me smile! She is in middle school now and has come a long way in developing and honing her writing skills. But it takes time to polish and perfect your writing, so there is still a long way to go.

Writing is a very important part of our lives, whether we choose it as a profession or not. More than spoken language, the written word can express things and have an impact on generations of people. But more so for us as technical writers, good writing is the defining element of our profession. Good writing, not technical know-how, is what sets a technical writer apart from non-writers. We could be considered non-technical writers; after all we convert technical lingo into non-technical information. Language and writing skills, such as correct diction, appealing sentences, concise information, and solid structure and style are indispensable for being successful in this profession.

The other part of our profession is our understanding of, and skill in using, technology. The “technical” part of technical writing is as important as the writing, if not more. While these two parts need to function together as a whole, and we need to stress both equally, I feel that somewhere along the way technology requirements have taken over the need to write impressively.

That document you're working on need not be spellbinding, but certainly requires maximum clarity and a user-centric focus.

A look at some popular job websites shows a trend: many employers are looking for technical communication professionals with experience working with an array of different technical programs. The technology requirements cloud writing requirements to a great degree. Since good writing becomes a sort of nonessential part of documentation work, we see non-writers such as software developers, business executives, managers, and others doing documentation for organizations.

The common belief is that anyone who can work on developing a software program or a product is automatically qualified to write about it. After all, these people know the ins and outs of the product and can easily make product brochures, user guides, or any written material needed to go with it. Needless to say, this doesn't always work out for the best. Unimpressive or unclear documentation can lead to failure of the product. That user guide you’re working on need not be spellbinding, but certainly requires maximum clarity and a user-centric focus.

With the availability of a plethora of technologies to use in the workplace, there is a pressure to master as many of these as possible. This is not a bad thing. I myself have worked with many different software programs and always look forward to learning new ones. Technology can help with writing, editing, and organizing documentation projects and prove invaluable to getting the job done.

But at the same time, we might get so wrapped up in perfecting the style of the document, that the seemingly little things might get missed—the grammatical errors here and there, maybe a misspelled word, a missing punctuation, or incorrect use of tense. These things seem to become secondary.

One might argue that technology helps produce error-free documents. With everything from spell check and grammar check to document writing templates, it is difficult to go wrong; it is probably more difficult these days to produce grammatically tragic and poorly constructed documents! A perfect piece of documentation can be produced each time by employing the correct tools. It’s like ordering a perfectly cooked dish at a fancy restaurant and enjoying it every time. But somewhere deep down it fails to provide the kind of satisfaction and pleasure that only your mom’s recipe could.

Similarly, writing could be perfect, technically speaking. But the thought and care that goes behind good writing to make it appealing beyond the technical facets requires thoughtful effort. Technical tools lend structure to a document, but not thinking about your writing can take away its “soul” somehow.

So in our endeavor to learn the latest tools, and update our tech skills, let’s not forget to pay “spesheil” attention to the essential part of our profession—the writing.

Short story

Priti Thakur is a freelance technical writer in Cary, NC with experience in software documentation, web content, and business writing. She is a full-time mom to her two kids, part-time reader, and occasional daydreamer. She can be reached at thakurpriti at yahoo dot com.End of article.

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