Specialized Technical Writers or Those Who Can Do It All?
A common argument among companies and HR departments is whether the technical writers they hire should be well versed in many projects or just in a particular set of projects. And there are good arguments for both sides of this discussion.
Why Specialization Helps with Technical Writers
Technical writers are already specialists of sorts, helping to create technical documentation for any number of departments. They are able to create manuals, handbooks and other forms of documentation, such as online help, that instruct readers how to perform certain tasks.
This work is detailed, specific and needs to be well organized. The technical writer needs to be able to organize not only the material, but also the way the material is presented in order to be utilized to its full intent. Choosing technical writers who specialize in certain departments (e.g. IT) can be helpful as there is already a base of knowledge from which to write. They may already understand how certain information needs to be presented and how it will likely be used.
The More Skills the Merrier Argument
On the other side of the coin, technical writers who specialize in only one field or functional department might be limiting their ability to help a company that has more diverse needs and lacks the budget to engage multiple writers. For example, if the IT department and the marketing department need materials, technical writers who only have backgrounds in IT might have a harder time transferring those skills to another department like marketing. Certainly, marketing writers have different skill sets from technical writers, especially those technical writers who do not have a broad background of writing experience. Technical writers who have a varied writing background and the ability to shift tone and fully appreciate the needs of diverse audiences can serve multiple purposes in an organization, and thereby offer greater potential value to the organization.
Specialized or not, technical writers are a valuable part of a company. By understanding if you need a versatile writer or specialized writer, you’ll be able to choose the best writer for your company’s specific needs, and you will never be “at a loss for words”, so to speak.
What are your thoughts on specialists vs. generalists when it comes to technical writers? Please leave a comment.