“So, you think technical writing isn’t persuasive?”
That’s what the Director of Graduate Writing Programs philosophically asked us, as first year technical writing students.
After some debate, she finally offered, “Your main job as technical writers is to convince your audience to read the instructions and to complete the task, at hand…”
I’ve remembered my instructor’s words, all these years.
Given how reluctant most customers are to admit defeat and to turn to the documentation in the first place, I’d say that good technical writers are among the most skilled rhetoricians there are.
Convincing others to complete a desired series of steps—or more subtlely, to accept a given structural metaphor about the way your product works (often known as frameworks, platforms, solutions, features, and functions in heavy-duty technical manuals)—that’s persuasion.
Emotion accounts for most of our day-to-day decisions, but it’s logic that accounts for long-term change.
Perhaps that’s why, in my experience, technical writers are most often naturally allied with sales, especially in business to business.
In these settings–with a much longer buying cycle–I’ve never ever met someone from sales who didn’t value the technical documentation. Come acquisition and merger time, believe me, that B2B audience wants the details.
Product documentation signs deals.
When it comes to sales that equate to thousands of dollars and beyond—show me the manual.