This week brought one of my favorite annual events: the celebration at which the students in our Technical Communication program at Duke University receive their certificates.
This year’s group was especially engaged and astute. Their capstone projects reflected their enthusiasm and skill.
Here’s what I told them during our celebration.
A person who aspires to become a doctor passes through a carefully prescribed series of steps: medical school, internship, residency. An aspiring lawyer goes to law school and takes the bar exam.
But people follow all kinds of paths into technical communication. I majored in the humanities and hoped to be the next Bob Woodward, until I discovered that technical writing paid better than writing news. Your other instructors were researchers, software engineers, and trainers. One even went to school to study technical writing. Each of us followed our individual path until we found our professional home.
You too came to this place from a variety of backgrounds. Your cohort includes an academic editor, a user-interface designer, a couple of teachers. You’ve worked in medical research, medical transcription, policies and procedures. We even have an actor and playwright.
Whether technical communication turns out to be your professional home, or you apply the skills and principles you learned in this class in other lines of work, you’ll always be part of the technical communication community.
It’s a diverse community that lives and works all around the world, encompassing many different disciplines in many different industries.
Despite its diversity, its members share a common belief in providing information — relevant, factual, truthful information — to the people who need it, when they need it, where they need it. That belief drives us to make a positive difference in the world.
The members of our community are also creative, and, in our own way, we enjoy having a good time. In fact, right after this we’ll adjourn to the bar and argue about the Oxford comma. Actually, I’m kidding. We don’t argue about the Oxford comma. Every technical communicator knows that the Oxford comma is indispensable.
How many spaces to put after a period. That’s what we argue about.
Read my message to a previous class from the same certificate program: You’re now a technical communicator.