Good technical communication provides many benefits, from writing that people can understand immediately to needed information that’s easy to find. However, there are a few challenges when it comes to handling technical communicators:
1. Many in the industry can’t handle technical content
In my experience, about half of the technical communicators out there can’t actually deal with technical content. It can be a challenge to sort the good from the bad. To do so, it usually requires some kind of testing of the technical communicator’s abilities before committing to a full-scale project with them.
2. Sometimes technical communicators can be antisocial
Good writing requires some amount of isolation. That’s something that all technical communicators have to be able to deal with. But a good technical communicator has to prioritize relationships as well, since most of their work usually involves interviews and other forms of information gathering.
3. Lack of ability to use technical communicators effectively
You may know that you need help writing stuff up, but how do you make sure that you use that help well, and get the most bang for your buck. There are a variety of best practices, many of which are covered on this website. One helpful policy is to make sure that the technical communicators themselves know industry best practices, and have company policies that are in line with those best practices. An informal survey on LinkedIn indicated that 48% of issues technical communicators experience involve management being unclear on how to work well with technical communicators.
4. Technical communication help costs money
This one is what it is. Some are willing to pay for highly qualified help, and some aren’t. To avoid spending money on bad help should be the goal, so strongly consider including metrics in your progress that realistically assess the impact that the technical communicator is making.
5. Believing that technical communicators don’t provide enough value
This may be related to #1. But some people just don’t believe in the value of technical communication generally, thinking that it’s just prettying up text. While some of these people may be lost causes as potential clients, others can be won over when they see examples of and research concerning effective technical communication. The same LinkedIn survey mentioned above indicated that fully 2/3 of issues that technical communicators experience are related to organizations undervaluing the contributions of their technical communicators.
6. Overemphasis on terminology
Some people place as their first requirement that a technical communicator has mastered a particular set of niche industry terminology. This can happen especially when erroneous beliefs about #1 and #5 have taken hold. However, since terminology can vary widely within a single project in a single company, this requirement has more to do with prestige than actual effectiveness.
Do you have any other categories to add to this list? Let us know!