Extensible Markup Language: How Might It Alter the Software Documentation Process and the Role of the Technical Communicator?

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This article describes the influence that Extensible Markup Language (XML) will have on the software documentation process and subsequently on the curricula of advanced undergraduate and master's programs in technical communication. XML, an evolving set of standards for storing and displaying information, uses nine components that make up the XML development process. Grouped into content, formatting, and language specifications, these components enhance organizations' ability to manage information more efficiently and accurately. As the XML development process is adopted, the software documentation process will evolve from a self-contained procedure into a more flexible, interactive process in which software documenters must work closely with a wide range of specialists. The changes that XML will have on the software documentation process will likewise have implications for programs in technical communication in the need to address new kinds of job descriptions, skill sets, and career paths of future technical communicators. The article recommends adaptations to existing courses, as well as new elective and required courses.