What is technical communication?
Technical communication includes a wide variety of roles and spans across most industries. Like editing and writing, technical communication does not belong to just one industry. A technical communicator might work as an individual or as part of a small team. People working in this field may have many different titles. You are part of the technical communication world if your role includes creating or supporting:
Technical information in any format, including printed, electronic, mobile, online help
Information of any sort, such as procedures, work instructions, manuals, user guides, training, parts information
Work flows, procedures and instructions for business
Learning material (information design) and training content for print, electronic, or online use
Compliance based information which aligns with standards, legislation, and codes of practice
User experience, workflow analysis, design, and usability test.
A technical communicator can come from any background and may have one of many different titles. One of the most commonly known titles is a technical writer. Whatever their title, a technical communicator creates or changes technical information about a product, service or system.
Technical information is all around us and is part of our everyday life, whether you recognise it or not. How to use a product safely and correctly is important for the success of any product, service or system. The need for information may be optional, but it more likely comes from product quality or health and safety laws.
The content and format of technical information can vary, especially with the continuing changes to technology and how people access information today. With technology improvements, we need to keep up with the latest changes and techniques. Professional development is continuous to keep up with the latest information. Conferences, webinars, and other training provides opportunities to update knowledge and awareness.
Technical communicators can use many different tools to produce content. Tools can include internal editing software, professional publishing tools, or common and basic word or text processors. Some formats may include the use of photographs, video, and 3D content. Recent changes also allow low-cost access of virtual or augmented reality. There is no limit to the possibilities of how to transfer knowledge. A good technical communicator is always thinking about the end-user, how they will access and interpret information, and the most suitable presentation format.
Technical communicators may need to create technical information for new products or update existing technical information. They may need to research or test a product to interpret and test technical information or specifications. Some tasks will include working with or interviewing subject matter experts to extract information and uncover the missing details that a user might need to know.
Most technical communicators need to work with subject matter experts at some point when creating technical information. Subject matter experts are the people who create or manage the raw details. We often need to extract extra information from them to unlock key information or clarify details. Technical communicators may also work with end-users of the information, although this is not always possible. Consulting with end-users allows a technical communicator to create clear and accurate technical information that works for the people who need it.
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Our role in the industry
We support the interests of our members by developing strong relationships with industry, government and educational institutions. We work to educate them about the specialist knowledge and skills of our profession. We show the value that is added in engaging our members.
We promote best practice in technical communication and plain language, showcasing the work of our profession and the depth of our knowledge. We encourage all businesses and organisations to:
use good practice in technical communication
understand that technical communication is a professional discipline with its own set of skills
benefit from our knowledge and skill by engaging our members to provide technical communication services
The ASTC supports technical communication through networking, webinars, conferences, and other professional development opportunities.