TC Myths

All technical communication myths in place.

Good technical documentation requires use of several sophisticated tools

Authoring and publishing technical documentation requires sophisticated and specialized tools (software).


This is a myth that is grounded in fact, but, perhaps overstates the importance of tools.

Hart (Ten Technical Communication Myths) describes the need for tools expertise as bases on the idea that, “Few managers want to hire a new technical communicator and wait weeks for the person to become productive with the company’s writing tools,” but he continues with, “hiring on the basis of ‘tool skills’ ignores the fact that the ability to format text is a very small part of our value as technical communicators.” He lists some of the tool-independent value of a technical writer by saying, “They hire us because we possess the ability to pry information from the grasp of reluctant subject-matter experts, because we have that rare skill of empathizing with our audience well enough to understand that audience’s needs, and because we have the persistence to make an effort to satisfy those needs.” He also points out the comparatively short lifetime of tools by saying that, “in my comparatively short career (not quite 15 years), I’ve mastered four different layout programs, half a dozen word processors, three operating systems, and more other types of programs and applets than I care to count.”

Anuradha (14 Technical Writing Misconceptions That You Should Know!) lists some of the specialized tools used to produce technical documents, but adds the disclaimer, “Any tools required during the course of their work can be mastered in a matter of weeks.”

Johnson (14 Widespread Myths about Technical Writing) asserts that “if you have strong domain knowledge about an industry, that knowledge can be a lot more powerful than a specifc tool.” He also mentions that it “only a few weeks to pick up a tool.” In another post, he describes an anectode of doing exactly that, saying, “when I applied for my job, I was required to know RoboHelp. Nevermind that I had just built an entire site out of Dreamweaver. So I downloaded a trial version of RoboHelp, played around with it for an afternoon, and made a dummy help file. I posted it on the web and my employer was impressed enough.”

Bob (Five Myths- Technical Writing Training) identifies the importance of tool fluency when looking for work stating, “if you have basic skills in using popular technical writing tools, you will get priority over other (assuming other things being equal).”

Survival tips

  • Always be learning.
  • Employers have heard many times, “I can pick up X in just a few weeks.” Being able to provide some demonstration of how you did that and how it added value to the job will give such claims more credibility. Or, you can try Tom Johnson’s approach.



None, yet.