Technical writing is mentally-stimulating, creative work, and requires someone who is both sociable and well-read. Technical writers do not need to know how to program computers or have more than a general understanding of the technology, but they must have the ability to learn about a new product and then explain it to others. Those with training in journalism, teaching, and writing can grow to become excellent technical writers by studying the techniques of modern technical communication. Often though, engineers and technicians most familiar with the technology, product, and process can have or develop writing skills to become technical writers.
Technical writers enjoy learning and reading. They find writing comfortable, though they aren’t perfect, and typically revise their work many times. They are both creative and orderly. Most importantly, they put themselves in the end user’s position.
This introductory course covers only the most universal and important concepts in technical writing. Later courses deal in depth with areas such as business analysis, documentation management, and other advanced topics.
When technical writers approach a new piece of technology, they are inwardly observing their own lack of knowledge. As they interact with and learn the software, they identify the information needs of the software users. They must be able to communicate well with programmers and customers, and extract information from them in a professional and personable manner.
A technical writer’s primary tool is language, tools such as Microsoft Word, FrameMaker, and RoboHelp; or—increasingly—free and open-source documentation software such as Wiki, are secondary considerations. In the course of their careers, technical writers learn dozens of other software packages and tools, and then teach them to others.
Worldwide, there is a strong demand for technical writers. Overwhelmingly, they use the English language. Software companies require technical and user documentation of their products, and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.
It’s difficult for aspiring technical writers to get “a foot in the door.” Most employers are looking for technical knowledge and demonstrated experience. Completing this course, and creating a project portfolio of completed work, will open doors to a career in technical communications.
These all types of writing styles have to be well conveyed in layman language such that your readers do not struggle with the content. Technical content writers strive to make their piece in a very concise manner.
When you are working as a technical writer under any client, you will be required to write about new products launched or data related to its features, which you would have never heard of before.
Developing good research skills can help in digging in several sites to get extensive information in order to formulate your content. Technical content writers often spend hours to complete their thorough research on any given topic.
At times, when you are working as a freelance, clients tend to provide specifications and data to write about in the content. However, if they do not, it is always better to have a hold on your research skills which can save up your time and help you produce your draft within time.
Here comes communicating with many subject matter experts (SMEs). Technical content writers work in full coordination with the SMEs to generate documents with accuracy. SMEs are the experts in the topic. As specialists they determine the purpose, guide the idea, and approve the final project.
Communication skills of the writer define his/her ability to listen attentively and record all the important notes necessary for the project. Also, you should know how to ask correct questions and learn from the answers. If you are unclear about anything, make sure to clarify it even if it seems unreasonable or dumb.
Suppose you are writing a technical report and you need to connect with SME regarding the subject. Beforehand, do your research and prepare a set of questions. Once you have gathered all the information, always analyze it prior to documenting. If there is any doubt, never refrain from asking again.
These checks should be run first, followed by a thorough review with your own eyes. Software cannot grasp all contexts or inconsistencies. In this review, reading potentially challenging passages aloud will test if they are accessible or awkward.
Once the text is linguistically correct, you’ll need to ensure it’s also technically correct. Step back from the document and return to it in the mindset of the intended audience. If your document is a user manual, use the instructions to operate the product. If your document is a new business proposal, read it as your client with their priorities in mind.
This review cycle will vary depending on the company or client. A common process follows a first draft, revised draft, and final draft/version of the document. Each review will refine and improve the document. Therefore, a lengthier or more critical document will require additional rounds of review.
A CV is a technical document. There is no better place to start applying your technical writing skills. Follow the style guidelines for technical writing and highlight your career and accomplishments.
No! While there are many valuable formal education programs in this discipline, there are no direct requirements for a college degree or diploma. Practical experience and a writing portfolio will be just as useful to winning jobs or impressing employers.
Is there a productivity app that you love to use, but its documentation is poorly written? Write your own and share it online for feedback. Has your office been dreading the preparation of the annual office health and safety report? Practice your technical writing skills to prepare this report while becoming the office hero.
As this field is growing, there is more information about its earning potential. When you plan your freelance contracts or your annual review, it’s important to know the value of a technical writer.
US Department of Labor reports that the average salary for a technical writer in the US in 2020 was $74,650 per year or $35.89 per hour. According to Salary.com, the average salary for a Senior Technical Writer ranges from $80,800 to $98,200 with an average base salary of $89,200.
Choosing an industry is an important first selection step. The technical documents in finance are quite different than those in pharmaceuticals or tourism. It is possible to write for multiple industries, but you will be most effective if you select a field that suits your interests and your experience.
Freelancer writers work for a range of clients to prepare their technical documents. As a freelancer, you can choose your clients and subject areas. In addition, freelancers are in charge of their own business and working hours. With a growing need for technical writing and online freelance platforms, there are lots of contracts available for both new and experienced freelancers.
In-house employees provide their technical skills to one company either as a full-time technical writer or as a technical staff with writing responsibilities. Full-time technical writers work with subject matter experts in the company to develop a range of required documents. Companies generally prefer that in-house employees have technical writing skills because those employees often know the technical details better than anyone else. They are the subject matter experts! The ability to communicate this expertise in writing is very desirable to employers.
There is a big advantage for technical employees, such as engineers and analysts, to add technical writing to their skillset. Communication is a challenge for many companies. It is difficult to make the best business decisions without clearly communicated information from the technical departments. An employee who can bridge the gap between technical and business will be of great value in most companies.
To have additional educational gains, there are many online courses available. Off-line courses in technical writing are available at many community colleges or technical schools. Online, there are free and paid resources available for refining your technical writing.
For example, Wikiversity has a free wiki-based course on technical writing. We offer an instructor-guided online technical report writing course to improve technical writing (in addition to our other business writing courses). This course is a practicum; you will build an actual technical report during the course.
Of course, good writers are also voracious readers. No, technical documents don’t make very exciting reading, but by reviewing highly-read or highly-used documents, your own writing will improve.
Professional associations signal a level of competence and offer a range of professional development and networking opportunities. Currently, the largest technical writing association is the Society for Technical Communication and the paid membership level depends on years of experience in technical writing.
Technical writing is a prized and profitable skill. It is a valuable title whether you are interested in making a career shift to a technical field or adding this ability to your current role. Remember, any employee who can convey technical information at work is very valuable to a company. Skill in technical writing is a real career boost.
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