Is Technical Writing Skill or Ability?

I often say this to myself: Anyone can write, but everyone cannot become a writer. But, when we can (and do) learn to write, why can’t we learn to become writers?

Language is a skill, which can be learned and mastered over a period of time. We must learn to follow the rules. Although subconsciously, notice that we almost always associate “writing” with “ability.” But, if that is true, why is writing (which is an ability) regarded as a profession (which is a skill)?

I recently read that writing features in a list of top 15 jobs that have survived for centuries, and assume it will continue to be there through the next century. This contradicts our current thread of discussion. Is technical writing really a skill or an ability? We can look to answer that question. But, first we must find if there are any rules for writing.

Now, the answer depends on what you would like to write. If you are writing prose, your work – in general – should be involving and interconnected, and contain a story. If you are writing verses, the work should have flow and be rhythmic and soulful. Still, none of these are rules. None of these [guidelines] can either be taught or evaluated. It is only the response to your work (or if I may say the reader connect) that can be evaluated.

So, can our work be evaluated based on the response? Certainly, it can be! And, it is a skill to drive the intended response. And, hence writing is a skill as well; a skill, which has some underlying principles, guidelines, and rules that govern the overall structure and quotient of impact and usability.

My take? I think, as I try to answer this question, the following points become noteworthy:

  • It takes a lot of practice to practice technical writing.
  • You need to be a writer (or think like one) – have a natural flair for writing, as they say!
  • You should love using technology.
  • It takes a lot of reading. But, read quality material.
  • You should enjoy walking on the thin line that separates skills and abilities

One last thought: You can have the inborn ability to smell the ingredients, but it still takes some learning to hone to skills of cooking. You can have the inborn ability to understand the poetry, but it still takes some learning to home your singing skills. On the flip side, you need to have some inborn qualities that match with your skills to create the “X-factor.” So, my take: Skill is to language; Ability is to writing. And, technical writing is skill-oriented ability.