The most important trait of a technical writer
I have read a few discussions on LinkedIn lately about what core skills a technical writer needs. The answers have ranged all over, from high technical skills to proper grammar and spelling.
I have one word for you:
That’s it. That’s the difference.
I can teach someone to write. I can give them the Good Writing Guidelines, I can set up a structure that they need to follow to create topics. I can teach the basics of any tool we choose. I can teach them about audience and what the audience needs and how that impacts us.
What I can’t teach is the curiosity to ask questions, to poke at the product, to constantly ask “What if…?”
And that difference is what makes a good technical writer, perhaps even an excellent technical writer.
Why ask why?
If you’re curious, you’ll learn more about your tools. You’ll ask more about your audience. You’ll think to ask important questions about the product you’re documenting. You’re thinking about everything as you do it, to understand more deeply everything you work with.
If you’re curious, you want to keep learning for the delight of learning and that’s shown in your work. You may not use all the information you learn about, for example, in the products, but you will have the understanding to know what makes sense and what doesn’t.
That curiosity will make you a better employee or consultant, too. Because you keep asking questions and relating it back to what you’re doing.
Seriously? That’s it?
Yup. That’s it. We can teach you the rest. Because you’re curious and want to know. But without that curiosity, you don’t want to know, no matter how much I or anyone tries to teach you. And that makes you a mediocre technical writer, at best.
Non-curious means you just want to format information other people give you. And that’s not going to help anyone, least of all our users.
Our field deserves more from you.
Thoughts on what makes a great technical writer?
Your thoughts? Am I wrong?