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Famous Technical Writers – Or Are They? 

5th May 2011 Posted in Blog, Technical Writers 6 Comments
Image for Technical Writers Specialists or Generalists

When you think about technical writing, few, if any, famous writers come to mind. Though there might be technical writers in software magazines and in larger newspapers, they aren’t getting the same exposure as fiction and best-selling authors. But maybe that’s not entirely true.

If you consider that technical writing is a process in which the reader is taught to do something, it seems that Martha Stewart may be a technical writer too.

The Technical Writing Suspects

If you look at the books available on the market right now, you see the best-selling fiction stories first, but close behind are books about cooking and fitness. These books help to break down complicated topics in order to make them more accessible to a wider audience. Sound familiar? Some of the technical writers I’d include:

  • Jillian Michaels – Making the Cut
  • Gary Taubes – Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It
  • Martha Stewart – Martha Stewart’s New Pies and Tarts: 150 Recipes for Old-Fashioned and Modern Favorites
  • Rachael Ray – Rachael Ray’s Look + Cook

As you can see, these authors might not sound like they should be a part of a technical writing team, but they take difficult concepts and make them easier for the reader. This is akin to the way that your employee handbook or manual is used to instruct new employees on the policies and the processes of your company.

Does this mean that technical writing is something that is as simple as creating a To Do list? That might be an exaggeration. What is clear is that technical writing is a fluid idea in a world where information is readily accessible at any time and in nearly any location with a WiFi signal. Technical writing is everywhere – and it’s needed everywhere, even if it’s packaged as a new fitness routine or a new holiday cookbook. No matter what the end result may be, the technical writer needs to be able to explain the concepts to the audience in print, not just on a television show.

Who else do you consider to be a technical writer, even though the rest of the world might not see it that way? We’d love to hear your thoughts – please comment and share.

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  1. By WAI Editoron 5th, May 2011 at 1:17 pm

    Great, thought-provoking post. I’d have to include the late Julia Child on this list. Isn’t any great cookbook with illustrations showing how to dismember a chicken or carve a turkey really a form of technical communication? I think so.

  2. By John Hedtkeon 6th, May 2011 at 3:38 am

    Thomas Pynchon was a technical writer at Boeing in the early 60s. Several mystery writers in the Seattle area have done this more recently; I even helped one get her job there at one point.

    There was also a technical writer I worked down the hall from at Microsoft in 1991, Ted Chiang. He’s only published about a dozen stories, but he’s won amazing awards: Nebulas, a Hugo, the Sturgeon Memorial Award, the John W. Campbell Award, and several others.

  3. By editoron 6th, May 2011 at 2:21 pm

    Thanks for your comment and sharing your insight.

  4. By Jennifer Huttonon 6th, May 2011 at 6:59 pm

    Tracy Kidder and Studs Terkel stand out in my reading experience. Kidder wrote “House” about a New England family building a home. It is filled with technical illustrations that provide a brief architectual history of that part of the US. Of course, he also wrote “The Soul of a New Machine.”

    Studs Terkel is best know for “Working,” is a collection of interviews with people who work in dozens of professions.

  5. By editoron 7th, May 2011 at 1:57 pm

    Thanks for taking the time to comment, Jennifer.

  6. By James Hydzikon 27th, May 2015 at 8:23 am

    Five years later and still no mention of Robert Pirsig? Am I the last reader of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance?

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