While I was perusing Indeed.com, I came across a job listing that included these two paragraphs. (The bold type is my own add for emphasis.)
Responsible for technical writing/editing for all types of documentation produced within a modern software development environment.
Strong knowledge of word processing software, strong writing and analytical skills to document software capabilities
As soon as I saw it, this Dilbert cartoon immediately popped into my head.
Tina the Tech Writer is absolutely correct. Technical writing is not word processing. The two terms are not interchangeable. But there are too many ignorant people out there who think they are. Too many people still think technical writing is either just glorified administrative assistant work, or is something that can get thrown together in just ten minutes. It’s my number one professional pet peeve. And it’s a major reason why I preach the gospel that I do at SQL Saturday.
Technical writing and communication is more than just writing documents and manuals. It’s about presenting data and information. It’s about online help. It’s about design and UX/UI. It’s about life cycles (I’ll say it again: there is such a thing as a document development life cycle). It’s about knowing your audience, readability, understanding document structure, developing the right kind of document for the situation, and so on, and so on, and so on. I could keep going (but I won’t).
How often do you look up a paper document for instructions anymore? These days, it’s mostly PDFs, web pages, and online help. Granted, books and hardcopy still have their place, but these days, a lot (if not most) people turn to other resources for their information. Technical writing is about supplying that information, using whatever means necessary.
It is not word processing.
By the way, in case you’re wondering, no, I did not apply to the job.