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When Technical Writing Became a Profession

1st December 2011 Posted in Blog, Career Development, Technical Writers 0 Comments

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Interestingly enough, technical writing has not always been a proper profession.  While it certainly was used in creating product manuals and in developing user handbooks, it wasn’t until 1980 that technical writing became a recognized profession – according to the legal system.  Though perhaps this wasn’t necessary to do, a court case solidified the idea of a technical writer – and paved the way for the profession today.

1980 Court Case

During 1980, an immigration case was brought before the courts in which the question of occupation classification was asked.  Because of the need for an answer to that question, the response was ‘technical publications writer.’  As a result of this answer and its acceptance, the United States Department of Justice ruled technical writing as being a proper profession.

Today’s Technical Writers

Today, technical writers might go by a number of different names, depending on the environment in which they work.  ‘Technical communicator’ is a commonly used phrase, but medical writers, copywriters, some form of information designer, and other terms might also be used.  So today’s question is not whether technical writing is a profession, but rather how else can technical writing be used to support other professions?  

  • Employee handbooks
  • User manuals
  • Product guides
  • Warranties
  • Pharmaceutical fact sheets
  • Equipment instructions

For more than 30 years, technical writing has been seen as a proper profession, one that a person can take on and cite as their method of making money.  And it seems that opportunities abound for the person who has technical expertise or perhaps simply a way with words to explain the technical bits to others. 

What do you think about technical writing as a profession? If you’re a technical communicator, what titles have you gone by? Let us know you’re alive and leave a comment!

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