Introduction To Technical Writing as a Career

If you are contemplating a change in career and technical writing looks charming, read this article. 

Take a second and look beyond the salary. As with any big choice, it pays to do your research. In the writing world, being a technical writer is not the best job. If writing jobs were footwear, then writing fiction would be the stiletto heels, and technical writing would be regular hiking boots. Yep, that’s technical writing, practical, utilitarian, necessary, and informative. We are here to send information, not to display our opinions or to showcase our writing styles.

So if you can seal your head around being a hiking boot, then technical writing may be for you. But don’t stop your analysis there. You owe it to yourself to find out everything you can about a profession before you launch into it.

Technical writing requires several critical abilities of a writer:

  1. Precision
  2. Translation
  3. Conciseness
  4. Attention to detail.

Precision in technical writing means that the technical writer puts out the effort to ensure that the document’s information is accurate. If this means additional research, then that more legwork is done. Because of the unique nature of documents technical writers create, people count on genuine and authentic content. The documents produced by technical writers help use the software, use machinery, run businesses, and conduct scientific research. This isn’t penning a novel. Even the smallest inaccuracies can affect the report’s credibility and reflect poorly on the writer’s credibility and skill.

Translation in this context means that a regular technical writer must have the skill to collect technical information and carefully translate it into language at the intended audience level. When a technical writer interprets highly technical engineering language into a document readable by an engineering technician, that technical writer is a good translator. Not everyone can listen to a subject matter expert or read research material and understand it to the extent to write a clear document. This skill can be acquired through much practice, but the most successful technical writers have an inherent ability to translate.

Conciseness is the capacity to present the needed information in an organized fashion, using as few statements as possible. When I first began technical writing around twelve years ago, it was an office joke that more solemn documents were better documents. Of course, this wasn’t true, but there used to be a specific belief that more oversized documents were complete. Technical writers now understand that doing their best means reviewing a document and eliminating all useless phrases, unnecessary verbiage, and theatrical language. Sure this takes effort, but it’s well worth it. The principle of keeping it short and straightforward applies to technical writing. We are now in the decade of less is more. The result of ducking the fat in your documents will be that the papers will be more precise, more organized, more comfortable to read, and more easily updated.

A technical writer must have a high level of awareness. This means that a writer writes as carefully as possible. They verify the information in the document against the resource information and observe punctuation, spelling, and grammar rules. Crossing the T’s and dotting the I’s is just the beginning of creating an excellent technical writing document. A technical writer also guarantees that formatting is consistent, the document is reasonably organized, and the language suits the intended audience.

These are the important skills needed to be a successful technical writer. Do a self-evaluation and see if you have these skills before ejecting into a career. A technical writer holding the appropriate skills will spend their time at a new job learning the style, the organizational language, the subject matter, and team functionality. Someone lacking in one or more of these skills will perform the typical new job tasks and learn the missing skills. It would be an uphill battle, and progress would be difficult, not impossible, but hard. Better to know yourself well and be prepared in advance, whatever you choose as a career.

Technical Writers Work Profile

Technical writers have the following job profiles:

  • Study new product samples and talk with developers and product designers
  • Discuss with technical staff to make products simpler to use and thus require fewer instructions
  • Write and prepare supporting content for goods
  • Standardize, edit, or make changes to content prepared by other writers or office personnel
  • Use drawings, photographs, 3-D animation, diagrams, and charts that increase users’ understanding of the product
  • Select suitable medium for message or audience, such as online inforgraphs
  • Institute content across media and platform
  • Gather user feedback to improve and update content
  • Revise content as new version arise

Technical writers write and compile assembly instruction, digital operating instructions, how-to manuals, and “FAQs (frequently asked questions”) pages to help consumers, technical support staff, distributors, and other users within a firm or an industry. After a product or a new service is launched, technical writers also may work with product account specialists and customer-service managers to enhance the end-user experience through product design revisions.

Technical writers often collaboration with computer engineers, support specialists, and software developers to control information flow among project workgroups during testing and development. Therefore, technical writers must understand complicated information and communicate information to people with different professional backgrounds.

Careers for Technical Writers

  • Content writers
  • Content developers
  • Information developers
  • Information designers
  • Documentation specialists
  • Policy writers
  • Technical communications specialists
  • Technical trainers
  • Technical illustrators
  • Technical Web writers
  • Technical Journalists

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