I just launched TC Myths, my site in which I’ve collected all the myths about technical communication that I could find.
It started out as a quick lit. review, but the list grew more quickly than I expected (or imagined). I originally thought the list of myths would result in a duplicate of a similar list at UX Myths and then that would be the end of it. As it turns out, there is very little overlap. It also turns out that TC Myths are (or have been so far) much harder to research, compared to the UX Myths. The myths are also mysterious, which is why I’ve opened it up to comments and contributions.
I’m trying to understand why Technical Communication has (by my last count) over 70 different myths! Do we really need that many?
So, what does it take to be a TC Myth?
For starters, the bar I set is pretty low: someone has to call it a myth in some published medium. I have more that I’ve not seen published (yet) and I suspect other TC professionals do as well, but using this bar has provided enough to work with for the time being.
To break it down:
- Someone can be anyone who publishes. Nowadays that can literally be anyone, but I’ve included links to the source of each myth so you can judge the authority of the author for yourself. If, as a community, we decide that some authors are not qualified to enumerate TC myths, that could thin the list.
- Call it a myth means just that. This has been challenging and I expect that this will need to become more specific over time. In general, whether explicit or not, the myths in this list are things “that people say [about technical communication],” but are not true (in the writer’s observation. I wanted to cast a wide net at the beginning to see what I caught and then filter the list over time. That resulted in 72 myths.
Why so many myths?
As I was collating and tabulating the list I was surprised to find so many myths.
Is technical communication such a mysterious field?
Apparently, yes. It is.
In one of the articles I found while researching this (Hayhoe, G. F. (2004). Why We Do the Things We Do. Technical Communication, 51(2), 181-182.), George Hayhoe, suggests, “the vast majority of technical communicators have no formal training in the arts and sciences of our profession.” and “that many of us don’t know the extent of what we don’t know about technical communication because we’ve never had a systematic tour of the domain of knowledge in the field. ” I know that described me when I first started out as a technical communicator–and that was after being in the software industry for over 15 years. On this background, George observes, “the fact that many of us lack formal academic training in the field is that a rich mythology has grown up and spread, and many of us are not equipped to discern myth from real research and theory.”
I’d say that 72 myths (and counting) supports George’s observations–made over 13 years ago.
Where to, now?
The myths that I’ve been able to find have been collected and tabulated in the site. I’ve researched and summarized the 19 most frequently referenced leaving (as I write this) 53 more myths to go. I’ll continue to chip away at them but I welcome any and all assistance in that process.
My goal is to learn more about this and share what I learn with the academic and professional communities. As such, I’ve received approval from my university’s human-subjects division to conduct this project as official research (hence the link to the consent form before you can comment). I’ve enabled both anonymous and public commenting on the site, and I’m looking forward to your thoughts and ideas.
Where will this go? I don’t know, but that’s what makes it interesting.
Where should it go?