Professional Writing Job Functions

What does a technical/professional writer do? Of course they write, but writing is only one part of the job. The NorthWest Center for Emerging Technologies described the following seven job functions for technical writers:

  1. Analyze project requirements
  2. Perform research
  3. Design documents
  4. Develop and write documents
  5. Publish and package documents
  6. Manage tasks
  7. Solve problems and troubleshoot
NorthWest Center for Emerging Technologies. Building a Foundation for Tomorrow: Skill Standards for Information Technology. 1st ed. Bellevue, WA: NorthWest Center for Emerging Technologies, 1996; Millennium Edition 1999.183-93.

Others have put this more simply saying that good professional writers have a combination of writing ability, problem solving skills, and an ability to work with other people. Writing is at most 1/3 of the job.

I adapted the NorthWest Center’s job function list to one that accounts for how workplace now includes a range of digital and multimedia genres, and values editing as an important part of the process of developing documents:

  1. Analysis of project requirements, resources, and rhetorical contexts
  2. Research using a variety of methods including observation, interviews, and archival research.
  3. Design information and documents, including creating visual elements
  4. Write traditional documents like reports, but also compose multimedia and visual documents that can be shared on the Internet
  5. Edit documents as part of a development process
  6. Publish digital and print media in multiple platforms.

Two functions, manage tasks and solve problems and troubleshoot, are common workplace functions. Professional writers must be able to proficiently manage the varied tasks they have to perform, and have the critical ability to solve problems as they occur.