Revenge of the Technical Writer

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For the past several work days, I’ve been banging my head against my desk. It is not an attempt to get workers comp and it isn’t because I keep falling down or tripping. No, we are trying to upgrade our live virtual meeting/conferencing server. Thankfully, I don’t have to do the upgrade itself. I just have to wait for the IT guys to tell me when to start configuring stuff and start testing. This is where the headbanging comes in. Long, boring story short, the software company has made sending participant notifications much more complicated. They also decided they didn’t need to provide decent instructions on which template went where. Since I kind of do technical writing for a living, I’d like to point out why tech writers are so important to companies.

  1. User manuals and instructions are the first thing you tell customers to read before calling support. And we all know how irritating it is to get some help on the phone. Why wouldn’t you put more time and money into your first line of defense?
  2. When people can’t figure out software, they look at the online help. Who writes good online help? Tech writers. Know what happens when you have software developers writing your documentation? It sucks. And your support calls increase exponentially by the degree of suckiness.
  3. We are good at translating geek-speak to something your grandmother could understand. We take “The DHCP and DNS have to communicate with TCP/IP before your network can connect” and make it “Be sure your modem is properly connected to your computer and turned on.”
  4. Would you want to put together a piece of furniture from IKEA without instructions? Granted, they just use pictures, but a tech writer was probably behind it.
  5. We help you avoid lawsuits by writing the warnings at the start of manuals for things like power tools, irons, and appliances.Why? Because at some point, someone did something stupid, like ironing their shirt while it was on their body, and now we have to tell everyone not to do that. We also have to think up other stupid shit people could do and warn against it.
  6. We can make installing a toilet actually sound interesting and fun.
  7. We make your end product better if you actually listen to us. We test your product while writing the documentation, which aides in discovering bugs and problems. Make the changes we suggest or suffer the consequences.
  8. Treat us well and you will have excellent documentation and help. Treat us poorly and the images in the help won’t match what users will see, we’ll skip steps in the instructions, and we’ll leave out entire sections that are vital to using the product. Yes, we are that powerful…and vengeful.
  9. We can do more than write software documentation. We can also do press releases, project reports, white papers, and marketing material. We’re also available for weddings and birthday parties.
  10. We’re cheaper than the 30 support staff you’ll need to answer calls if you don’t provide decent instructions.

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