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Documentalists vs Technical Writers

Writing Tools, picture by Ruben Lopez

I have worked for several Spanish software companies and one thing that always attracted my attention was that every time they needed to hire technical writers, the main recruitment criterion was to select people with a university degree in Biblioteconomía y Documentación (Library Science and Documentation). Why?

Well, I think that nobody really knows why. Maybe it is because technical writers are responsible for writing “documentation”, and this word is included in “Library Science and Documentation” and, consequently, in those software companies, technical writers are then called “Documentalists”. In two words: a mess!

The truth is that someone with a university degree in Library Science and Documentation can have the same text writing skills as, for example, someone with a degree in History. In my personal case, I have a degree in Business Administration and worked for many years as technical writer. I guess that the problem is that Human Resources departments, when requested to hire technical writers, as no university degree of such type exists, what do they do? What they used to do, at least in the days when I worked for software companies, was to select people with a degree in Library Science and Documentation and, hence, in software companies technical writers started to be known as “Documentalists”.

Glancing through different university curricula related to that degree (Library Science and Documentation) in Spain, no subject on writing texts appears. However, reflecting on this particular issue, I’m thinking on how useful someone with this degree could be for managing the huge amount of files that all companies store now in their units, and the excellent job they could do organizing that gigantic volume of virtual files.

With respect to technical writers, a university degree on writing texts would be more than justified, as companies would welcome this particular position due to the proliferation of blogs and Internet contents, in addition to assigning them other types of texts, such as technical, legal or commercial. As a result, HR department s would know better how/where to look for that specific profile.

Rubén Pedro López

Traductor Freelance: Ing > Esp > Ing Freelance Translator: Eng > Spa > Eng

2 Comments

  1. “I guess that the problem is that Human Resources departments, when requested to hire technical writers, as no university degree of such type exists, what do they do?”

    I don’t know the situation of university degrees for technical writing in Spain. However, there are institutes in other countries who offer an academic education for technical writers in the US, in Germany and in Austria (as you can see here: http://study.com/articles/Bachelor_of_Science_BS_Technical_Writing_Degree_Overview.html for the US, here https://studieren.de/technische-redaktion.0.html for Germany, and here for Austria http://www.donau-uni.ac.at/de/studium/technischekommunikation/).

    • Thanks for your answer, Peter. There are also institutions providing couses on technical writing in Spain, but not at university level. They are merely workshops with little academic value.

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