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Models of Technical Writing 
Technical Writing
Copyright © 2001 Thorold May All Rights Reserved.
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For the uninitiated, technical writing is writing without fun. For the initiated, technical writing is also writing without fun. If you have actually met some technical writers and heard what they think is funny, then you will thank the muse that their jokes don't get into manuals. This is the eternal dilemma of technical writing, because soulless prose is usually poor communication. Maybe novelists are more expensive to hire. Anyway, supposedly safe boredom is likely to remain the fate of all who are condemned to read computer help screens, operations manuals for machines, business procedures, and the general monotone of information which keeps the lights on and economies operating. Long distance truck drivers know that boredom is their highest accident risk. The assembly line mentality of industrial managers and engineers has a hard time taking that in, but they rule the modern world.

Technical writing has also been called technical communication and technical authorship. The profession has been around for at least a century, but the people who do it have traditionally been anonymous hacks in backrooms. The cyber revolution has put special demands on their skills and bid their price up. Some are now even asked to make their prose interesting.  

Functional literacy in most industrialized countries hovers around a scary 50%. Competent writers are a fraction of that. The percentage of the population who can write with coherence, precision and skill is desperately small (even amongst the so-called managerial classes). The number of people who can both understand technology and explain it to the unwashed masses is even smaller. You might think that technical writers, having such a saleable skill, could be megastars. That's not the way the world works. They don't pose in Italian silk suits, or wow crowds with booming amps. It is probably fair to say that most of the people who read their stuff hate reading, but have to get a job done. They rarely think about the writer, except to curse an error or an omission. Technical writing then is not the place to seek a Nobel Prize. Nevertheless, it does offer a challenge and a reasonable income to certain group of uniquely talented people.      

This section of the thormay.net site is provided as a gateway to this somewhat neglected area of the writer's art, mainly by providing some links to more specialist sites.

©Thor May 2013  All rights reserved      thormay@yahoo.com