Tag Archives: technical communicator

Turner & Rainey: Introduction to Technical Communication Certification

Turner, Roy K., and Kenneth T. Rainey. “Certification in Technical Communication.” Technical Communication Quarterly 13, no. 2 (2004): 211-34.

In this considerable article, Turner and Rainey discuss the debate of how to best certify technical and professional communicators. Turner and Rainey position the debate as an ethical issue: a profession, if it is to be judged a profession, must have a mechanism by which the profession can be judged and held accountable for its work. All other respected professions have their crediting agencies so for technical communicators to call themselves professionals, they must have some form of certification, licensure, or accreditation. Without such certification, customers may cast doubt over the quality of work offered as there is little visible guarantee that a technical communicator can complete even the simplest of tasks effectively or accurately.

Rather than descend into a circular argument about whether certification or accreditation produces better workers, Turner and Rainey instead ask, “What does the absence of a competencies assessment say about the profession?”. They conclude that the lack of a competencies assessment “tarnishes” the profession by suggesting the profession’s leaders are irresponsible, and that by keeping the public ill informed means the public have little idea about the professional competencies of the profession’s practitioners.

Ultimately, Turner and Rainey believe that an objective, fair, and meaningful system of certification will greatly benefit the profession of technical communication as well as individual technical communication professionals. Especially when compared to other recognized professions, technical communicators owe an ethical obligationĀ to their potential customers and consumers to show an objective, fair, and meaningful certification system.

How do you assess the best way to train technical communicators?


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Price & Korman: Writing Procedures

Price, J., & Korman, H. (1993). Chapter 12: Procedures. In How to communicate technical information: A handbook of software and hardware documentation (pp. 226-247). Redwood City, Calif.: Benjamin/Cummings Pub.

Einstein’s quote at the beginning of this chapter – “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler” – is an apt summary of this chapter. For a reader to find a manual effective, they must find a set of procedures to follow so they can complete a given task. The role of the technical communicator, therefore, is to ensure that the procedures they write are simple, yet effective. Price and Korman provide several “best practices” for the technical communicator to follow so they can reach the goal of simple, yet effective procedures. Price and Korman identify four major parts of good procedures:

  • Name: Something that identifies the task or step that must be done, and informs the reader what their goal is
  • Introduction: Where necessary, identifies and describes unfamiliar ideas to allow the reader some context
  • Number steps: The sequence of events that must be followed to achieve their goal
  • Explanations: Where necessary, follow numbered steps to help solve potential difficulties, errors, or questions

The authors simple prescription for ideal procedure writing may seem basic, but their principles giveĀ any technical communicator the tools to write effective procedures for any type of technical documentation. As they identify broad terms for technical communicators to follow, they showcase the utility and applicability of their tools. They make Einstein’s quote come to life and present a case study for its use.

Could the principles Price and Norman suggest be applied in other situations? If so, where would these be?

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