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The Ghosts in Technical Writing

20th April 2011 Posted in Blog, Technical Writers 0 Comments
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Sometimes, a news story comes out that cites a ghostwriter as the author behind a technical writing document. And often, though not always, that same writer is accused of spreading false or inaccurate information. But the real question is why a company would hire a ghostwriter in the first place. After all, if a pharmaceutical company or some other organization wants to talk about their product, doesn’t it make more sense for the developers and experts to take on this task?

The Technical Ghostwriter

A ghostwriter is brought in or given work as a part of an outsourcing program. Whether there aren’t enough technical writers on staff or any at all, a ghostwriter has the skills to organize the information and create a technical document. At the same time, there are limitations to this sort of outsourcing. Since the ghostwriter may not have the background in the field, they might need additional support during the writing process. When this extra support doesn’t happen, things can go wrong.

  • Documents aren’t accurate
  • Information is misrepresented
  • User guides are incomplete

If the company is having troubles managing its resources, these errors may not be noticed until after publication, potentially causing damage to the reputation of the company.

Can You Catch a Ghost?

With ghostwriters being more valuable than ever in times of staff budget cuts, saying that they should be eliminated is not necessarily a realistic plan. Instead, safeguards need to be a part of the technical writing process.

  • The writer will need supporting documentation.
  • The writer and employer should speak before signing a contract to work together.
  • Skype and email contact should be frequent to help manage questions and concerns.
  • A final edit and evaluation is necessary by someone who understands the information intimately.
  • As a result of that final evaluation, it should be explicitly clear that the employer has full responsibility for the accuracy of the approved content.

While not everyone can write well, and ghostwriters may be needed during a crunch time, they also need to create final documents that are accurate. Having safeguards in place helps prevent future hauntings by ghostwriters who didn’t do their job.

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