Writing is essential part of technical communicators work. A number of competencies, including cross-functional team, and technology and interpersonal skills, are argued to be essential for effective technical communication, and for documentation processes and projects. However, studies generally agree that writing is the essential competency for a technical communicator that connect together the number of practices of the technical communication (Blakeslee & Savage, 2013). Therefore, previous literature has tried to guide technical communicators to a more effective through discussion of the semantic and syntactic features of a text that would make the placement of information more effective in a text, besides guiding the writers to state information with clarity (Farkas, 1999; Isakson & Spyridakis, 1999; Schneider, 2002).
In an attempt to build a heuristic for technical communicators, Blakeslee & Savage (2013) collect data from thirty participants among who are technical communicators, writers and contractors. They collected quantitative data that included types of documents the participants produced, time they spent on writing and the number of projects they worked on. Blakeslee & Savage (2013) then build heuristic for technical writers depending on these narratives of technical communicators in the workplace . The heuristic focuses on six categories; time, nature of writing, genre, approaches to and processes of writing, knowledge and skills, and personal treats and qualities. These six categories are interconnected and form a heuristic that guides technical communicators to what they should know about writing. First, writing would take have to almost all of the technical writer’s time and they have to meet expectations and deadlines. Time spent on writing and its quality all depend on the context which includes audience, purpose and writing organization. Besides knowing time, technical communicators also have to know the nature of writing and how much of it will they be their original work and how much would be cited. Another important aspect that technical communicators need knowledge of is genre. They have to have knowledge of a variety of genres and the ability to produce new genres depending on the writing situation. Besides, the technical communicator needs knowledge audience, context and rhetorical skills to be able to move between genres easily. Blakeslee & Savage (2013) also argue that there is no single approach to writing, and that technological knowledge and skills are essential for technical communicators as technology keeps changing. The last point they discuss in their heuristic is personal treats and qualities. They contends that interpersonal skills are essential for the technical writer working alone or within a team. They should be able to communicate effectively.
The last point of Blakeslee & Savage’s (2013) heuristic leads to Burnett, cooper & Welhausen’s (2013) discussion of collaborative work of technical communicators. A collaborative work is a group of people who work together, and plan and assign roles to individuals. The group members adjust the way they communicate with one another depending on the kind of relationship between them as group members in addition to personal preferences (this is a form of communication in which group members are the audience and is taken into consideration). Similar to individual work, collaborative work includes rhetorical elements of identifying audience, purpose and organization of information. Collaboration is a process of fulfilling individual work and help other members do theirs. It is not doing individual work then putting together the work of individual into a single work, but is an interaction among a group who has one goal and seek to achieve it together. They work on a complex task that needs a number of technical communicators who would have a leader or a facilitator who monitors the group work.
Generally speaking, Blakeslee & Savage’s (2013) heuristic includes discussion of all the points presented so far in the reading of this class. That is, technical writers produce documents depending on their evaluation of a certain situation and to meet the audience and organization expectations. To produce effective writing, they use a variety of genres and approaches. They also have interpersonal and technological skills that enable them to interact effectively with technology and the individuals they work with. Thus, technical communicators need to know the rhetorical elements of writing and how to collaboratively work within a team to write effectively.