Top 3 Skills of a Tech Writer

Why My Wife Envies Me as a Tech Writer

- Suyog Ketkar

The ‘Top Skills for a Tech Writer’ subject is often discussed enough to add it to the list of clichés in our respective style guides. But then, like it is with life, there is always more to it than meets the eye; at least so far, I have explored, technical writing is much more than the sum of its parts.

So, I chose to list the top 3 skills that you may hone throughout your career as a tech writer.

Universal Acceptance

“Your mistakes are your mistakes, and my mistakes are your mistakes,” my wife had remarked. And I agreed! Thus began this silent, quote-unquote fight that she concluded with, “Why do you always have to agree with everything I say? Can’t you ever argue for no reason?”

This incident was a few years back, although I suspect it might still be fresh in her mind after 5 years, 26 days, and 4 hours, like all other silent fights. And, like always, I agreed and moved on! This sounds like an everyday scene of an average household where husbands are trained to be well-domesticated. Fun aside; I realized that my profession prepared me to be ready for anything. I’m like that Zen-practicing monk who chooses to act like they are in a state of absolute calmness.

We all have that one subject-matter expert (SME) in our respective organizations who, for no reason, waged war against us. It is, literally, their ‘word’ vs.my ‘word’ or their ‘comma’ vs. my ‘comma’. No matter how much I try, I cannot restrict their feedback to only technical accuracy. They will trespass into my property like it was theirs until yesterday. Now I am immune to their feedback so much so that if they don’t give any, I suspect anything is wrong with them?

I have understood that all SMEs have filter criteria. Through our interactions and mistakes I (we?) committed, I’ve learned to adhere to the SME’s filter criteria before sharing my perspective. They are, after all, pivotal to the software development and delivery processes. And we, as mere mortals (read technical writers), remain but well-domesticated until it is time for another release.

Truth before Ego

Growth and learning can rarely happen in isolation. Therefore, it is critical to look for opportunities to become our own better versions. It applies to all levels of work wherever there is a close association of authority and responsibility involved. You could be a newcomer or an experienced professional, it doesn’t matter. It applies across all the tools, technologies, and methodologies. As long as we address the correct problems, and deal with those problems correctly, we can resolve people’s problems.

It requires someone at either the same level or a different level within the reporting hierarchy. Our peers could pursue the problem from a microscopic or higher perspective. At least I have no shame in accepting that after I spend time with my write-ups, I become blind towards my mistakes. That’s when I rely on peer reviews!

The Power of Objectivity

Out of all the things that our rather uncommon Common-Sense covers is our power to judge. But it goes deeper than judging between correct and wrong. It goes deep into the level of choosing how much is too much, or differentiating between good and good enough. It is these little things, like the attention to detail that counts. I’ll even go so far as to say that to earn our Jack of all trades status, we learn a good deal about journalism, language, communications, computer science, engineering, technology, coding, and project management. Is there still anyone who thinks we are any less than superhuman? The difference is, even if I think I am a Superman, I know how ugly I’d look if I wore the innerwear over my trousers. Thanks to my power of judgment and objectivity, I know exactly how much is too much!

It requires someone at either the same level or a different level within the reporting hierarchy. Our peers could pursue the problem from a microscopic or higher perspective. At least I have no shame in accepting that after I spend time with my write-ups, I become blind towards my mistakes. That’s when I rely on peer reviews!

It all comes together to create a wholesome experience for us. The fact that I can:

  • See above and beyond my ego to communicate the correct message correctly
  • Step into my user’s shoes to understand their list of problems from their perspective
  • Stride down the path of objectivity with assurance

Makes me the subject of envy for my wife!

I’m on guard and still submissive when I say, “my mistakes are my mistakes, and your mistakes are my mistakes.” Now, that’s some skill.

About the Author

Suyog Ketkar is a certified technical communicator with more than 14 years of experience. His work journal enlists stints in sales, writing and editing, and technology. In his spare time, he writes poetry on his blog. He is a published author, you can read his book “The Write Stride – A Conversation with Your Writing Self” on Amazon or visit his website http://suyogketkar.com or LinkedIn. He is currently promoting his second book (first historical fiction), which will be in stores this year.

1 Comment
  • Priti
    Posted at 13:00h, 15 September Reply

    Very insightful in a humorous way.

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