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Competences for Technical Documentation
coverage competence
The tech writer has to conceive the main proposition of a technical document regardless of its kind. An installation manual is about the assembly and setting-up of equipment – no details for operation or servicing shall be found here. A user manual describes which operational steps have to be made for the proper use of the device – explanations for assembly or transport don't belong here, unless a single manual covers all topics.
comprehension competence
An author being unsure about the meaning of a technical description will barely be able to inform the reader properly. It takes empathy for technical circumstances which are sometimes difficult to judge for a tech writer. So a tech writer benefits from good technical education and professional experience in technical industries for the understanding needed for his or her documentation work.
evaluation competence
Possibly a personís know-how is very limited when reading a technical document. But not all and every elementary knowledge can be described in that document as the amount of pages would increase excessively. The tech writer must evaluate the knowledge he or she can assume, and this may be stated in the document where appropriate.
conceptual competence
A technical document serves to familiarize its reader with technical procedures. The tech writer has to decide how he or she structures and prepares the matter at best for the reader to comprehend and apply it unerringly. In the on-screen help for a computer software, the content is structured in separate text sections connected by hyperlinks. It depends on the tech writer if the reader will get along with the structural concept.
implementation competence
For each job there is a suitable tool. If not used properly or if one is unfamiliar with a tool, this will impair the result. The tech writer must be familiar with his or her tools in order to obtain the optimal performance.
presentation competence
Instructions must be written descriptive. Even conceptional matter can be presented understandable by suitable phrases and textual structures. When read for the first time, the essential meaning of a sentence should be revealed. A uniform language and unique nomenclature are prerequisites in order to provide unambiguous information for the reader.
visualization competence
The selection of pictorial content is of importance as well. Image presentations are to provide an overview or to illustrate minutiae. The reader gets confused when images are overdone with unimportant data. Contradictions between images and textual descriptions may result in fatal consequences for the readerís understanding.
design competence
The segmentation of the page, in a book or on screen, inherently can decide if or if not the reader agrees with a technical description. The selected typefaces, the size and placement of pictures, the relation in quantity of text and pictures, the use of optical guidance such as symbols, lines or boxes – all of these contribute to the readerís ability to follow the instructions effortlessly.
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