Agricultural Extension and Technical Writing - Same Flavor, Different Brand?

Agricultural Extension and Technical Writing - Same Flavor, Different Brand?

Before deciding that I wanted to venture back into the realm of academia, I had not given the phrase technical writing very much thought. In undergrad, technical writing was a class that I didn’t want to take because I enjoyed the endless possibilities of creative writing. The pomp. The circumstance. The flowy prose that could take a reader on a whirlwind of a ride. I didn’t have time in my already overloaded schedule (I wasn’t an English major so these English classes were really pushing my course load to the max) to take extra classes that I didn’t find enjoyable. When I wasn’t seeking out fun writing classes, I sought classes that were more hands on and took me outside. I was majoring in agriculture and sociology. I wanted to know how people and animals worked, not write dull boring papers that valued simplicity and efficiency. I was all about the fluff. Hence, the strong aversion to any writing class that started with the word technical.

However, I was interested in agricultural extension work. Do you know what an extension agent is? No? Well, the down and dirty, straight to the point definition is this:  An agricultural extension agent is someone who is usually hired by land grant universities to take the research they do around agriculture and break it down into teachable material to the farmers who will implement it. Yes, an agricultural extension agent may get on this blog and say, “We do so much more than that!” But for the sake of the point I am attempting to make, this definition is just fine.

Now, you’re probably thinking, what does all of this have to do with that dreaded technical writing? Well, I have learned recently that what I had been interested in in doing, agricultural extension work, and technical writing, are not too different from each other.  According to Dr. Lucas’s article on technical writing, or how I understood it, an agricultural extension agent is just a technical writer in disguise. And maybe out in the sun a little bit more.

Technical writers are the bridge between heavy academia, or whatever immensely technical sphere you are working in, and the average joe. They help make sectors accessible to the everyday consumer. Technical writing now, in the digital age, is about accessibility at your fingertips. Knowledge that is consumable without hassle. That’s where the digital writing comes into play. You have to make it engaging, relatable, and buy-in worthy. Just like an extension agent. Without these things, you don’t have a reader.

I think I would enjoy being a technical writer. I also believe that I already am a technical writer and digital writer in some respects. I manage the social media platforms for my local touch rugby team. How many people in America know what rugby is? Unsurprisingly, not that many, relatively speaking. Take that one step further and ask them to know what touch rugby is? Forget about it. Through our social media, I do my best to teach people about touch rugby. I use graphics. I share videos. I do short interviews with our team. I promote the sport. I answer questions. I put the information out there in a way that is palatable to the non-rugby obsessed consumer. I didn’t know that I was a technical and digital writer. I didn’t know that what I’ve been doing is something I could make money doing. I didn’t know that I love technical writing and digital writing. Reading the articles, I realized that I’ve been a technical writer for a long time. I’ve realized that I enjoy taking the hyper specific, heavy vocabulary of my passions and working them into relatable and palatable material for others. I like creating visually appealing and educational posts. It is something that brings me immense joy. I wish someone had been able to talk some sense into the young, naïve undergraduate that scoffed and turned their nose at technical writing. However, if that had happened, I may not have ended up in this MA program, in this course, forced to create a professional persona website where I’ll forever say that I am working on a novel that will someday be finished. I kid. I do intend to use my professional website to take another step towards a published author by having a landing site where publishers can get to know a little bit more about me. Stay tuned for the big website reveal coming to you live sometime over this course!

Bryanna Kerbuski

Bryanna Kerbuski

Professional Student. Rugby Enthusiast.