TC Myths

All technical communication myths in place.

You can't talk to SMEs

Technical writers should/must not disturb the subject-matter experts as their time is too valuable [to be bothered by writers].


This myth seems to reflect an organization’s culture, but be more reminiscent of old-school technical communication.

Hart (Ten Technical Communication Myths) recounts conversations that describe cases of “some corporate cultures still formally or informally try to prevent technical communicators from “bothering” the SMEs or developers.” He then describes how to work with or around the organizational customs.

Johnson (14 Widespread Myths about Technical Writing) encourages writers to go where the information is (to the end-users, in this particular case).

Amity (Mythbusters: Technical Communication Edition) describes discussing “tactics for communicating with developers and SMEs, as if they’re temperamental birds who must be coaxed out of their shells.” only to discover that “developers and SMEs are mostly happy to share what they know with us.” She attributes this myth to the the “old days” and that, nowadays, “SMEs recognize that technical communication is an integral part of the customer experience.”

Survival tips

  • Hart encourages technical communicators to develop personal connections with the subject-matter experts, whether the organizaiton encourages that or not.
  • Make sure your interactions with the SME are prepared, focused, and respectful.