Soft skills

This tweet definitely piqued my interest, as I am a firm believer in soft skills determining your success as much as (or more than!) the technical skills:

(Side thought: While I’m enjoying embedded tweets in my blog posts, I’m not sure it is the best user experience. I’m adding clicks to your experience. Here’s a link to the “Soft skills advice from design leaders” article mentioned in this tweet, which is actually another link away!)

In our Technical Editing Fundamentals certificate course with STC, Linda Oestreich and I spend time talking with our students about what soft skills a technical editor needs to be a good technical editor. When we introduce ourselves to our students at the start of the class, we list our soft skills instead of our technical skills..

Here’s the list of soft skills that I outlined as critical for being a successful technical editor: problem-solving, negotiating, diplomacy, tact, learning quickly, coaching, teaching, patience, attention to detail, sympathy, insight, breadth of view, sense of humor, and imagination. We also present Tarutz’s list of soft skills: empathy, restraint, good judgment, adaptability, flexibility, persuasion, and decisiveness.

Looking at these lists, I think most of these apply to any technical communication role. Certainly, some of these appeared in the list from designers. These soft skills are often the harder skills to teach or develop as you learn the technical skills or tools to do the technical communication job.

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4 Responses to Soft skills

  1. Great post, Michelle. People who think of technical editors often forget about the soft skills. By the way, when will you offer the Technical Editing Fundamentals certificate course again?

    As Merrill Perlman (adjunct at Columbia Univ. Graduate School of Journalism) once said in a webinar, copy editing is both a science and an art. The art aspect allows the editor to make judgement calls. The editor decides which answer best *fits* the situation. It also means knowing the difference between “changing” and “editing”. A change is something the editor wants to do; an edit is what the copy needs to be clearer to the reader.

    These soft skills are difficult to hone, and they are, in part, developed through experience and exposure to a wide range of content and writers.


    • Michelle Corbin says:

      We are offering it as a pre-conference workshop at the STC Technical Communication Summit in June. I’ll tweet a link as soon as it appears on the conference site.

      I like that idea of the difference between changing and editing. Has Perlman written any more about that?


      • I’ll keep an eye on that future tweet about the certification.

        I’d have to do some research to determine whether Perlman has elaborated on that discussion, but I do recall this:

        – What are the reasons for the alteration?
        – If you’re following a rule, make sure that it *fits* here.
        – An edit makes things better; a nuance is clarified, a term is explained.
        – A change just changes. One word is swapped for another because you like one better.

        In summary, an edit always keeps its main focus on the reader. A change is made for convenience sake or to obey a rule.


  2. Suyog Ketkar says:

    Thank you, Michelle, for the post. You have a great list of soft skills. In fact, you have inspired me to make a list of my own. The inputs provided by Anna are also insightful.


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