How to Become a Technical Writer

How to Become a Technical Writer? A Complete Guide

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Technical writing is increasingly becoming an invaluable skill that an individual can have. It’s necessary for those operating in businesses that are technical in nature. For e.g. scientists and engineers, and also for people who desire to work as full-time writers. When you know how to become a technical writer, you can leverage various opportunities in different domains and have a rewarding career.

Technical writing is more than just imparting your technical knowledge in a document. It’s about processing & analyzing complex high-level information & putting it together in a way that readers can understand. Professions like financial services, medical, and engineering always look for skilled technical writers.

In this guide, you’ll learn what technical writing is, the skills you need to know, and the process of preparing a technical document.

 

How to Become a Technical Writer

To become an intelligent technical content writer, you must know what technical writing is and what a technical writer does. It will help you decide if you can consider it a career option for yourself.

 

1. What is technical writing?

According to the Society of Technical Communication, technical writing refers to any type of communication that exhibits one or more of these characteristics.

  • Communicating via technology like social media channels, website pages, or help files.
  • Communicating regarding specialized or technical subjects like medical processes, environmental regulations, and computer programs.
  • Providing guidelines about the right way of doing something irrespective of how technical the job is.

 

Technical writing covers any kind of text that endeavors to explain comprehensive data. Technical writer services have professionals who present technical information in a manner that readers can efficiently use that data for a specific purpose.

 

2. What’s the work of a technical writer?

A technical writer translates complex information into a message that the intended audience can easily comprehend. It helps consumers to take the needed action. These writers create a structure to present information in a way that allows the end-user to easily understand it. Usually, you will find tech writers producing the following kinds of work:

  • Standard operating procedure (SOP) documents.
  • Online help sections
  • Product usage guides
  • Software installation guides
  • Technical proposals
  • Quick reference guides and handbooks
  • Whitepapers
  • Technical specification datasheets

 

Technical content writing depends not only on words or text for easy message comprehension. As most technical documents are read online, this content is also a good combination of text with images, screenshots, animation, video, and audio.

You can find a lot of tech writers in the information technology or IT field. Some build documents only in-house, while others write for the public at large.

 

Steps Involved in Technical Writing

Technical writing involves five chief steps. Every technical writer goes through these steps consciously or unconsciously. Adhering to them will help you manage your projects in the best possible manner.

Technical writing steps

1. Planning

This is the first stage of any technical writing project. When planning to write, ask yourself the following questions.

  • How many documents do you need to write, and what are their chief features?
  • How long do you require to schedule review cycles, and what’s the ultimate deadline?
  • Who is your target audience?
  • What tone of language do they prefer to read?

 

You can also use some ready-to-use technical writing templates for this purpose. It will help you to complete your tasks much quicker.

 

2. Structuring

The structure is the fundamental element of any technical document. It is essential to create a logical structure to write successful documents. That’s why writers of reliable technical writer services research a lot before creating a structure and employ several common structural approaches in their documents. These approaches include the following:

  • The traditional narrative structure – It is a conventional approach, which means breaking down the text into three parts, introduction, body, and conclusion.
  • Process-based structure – You can find it being utilized in procedures and user guides.
  • Library structure – It means a set of articles on a specific topic.
  • System-based structure – It entails explaining the various parts of a system like an auto-manual.

 

Irrespective of the structural approach you choose, you will have to work closely with subject matter experts and find how it will meet your purpose and objectives. Your purpose can be anything like explaining a product working, executing a process, displaying data in a sales document, and the like.

 

3. Writing

Good technical writing has certain characteristics. They include the following:

  • Usage of simple and short sentences.
  • Plain English, which means using fewer and more basic versions of words to communicate the meaning of your text.
  • Employment of inverted structure in writing. It means that the writers put the most relevant information in the initial parts, followed by supporting information.
  • Use jargon only when appropriate.
  • When using abbreviations, the writers first write the complete term and then put the abbreviation in parenthesis.
  • Usage of active voice.
  • Visual formatting, which means including relevant images to break down the monotony of the text. Pictures also explain the text better to the reader.

 

These writing techniques help in the production of engaging and helpful documentation.

 

4. Reviewing

You can regard it as the polishing stage. In it, you submit the document for review, edit, and proofreading. It’s important to review your text from the point of view of your intended audience or client. Find if it’s linguistically and technically correct. Subject matter experts also do the review. Its purpose is to determine the accuracy of your document and if it is usable. After it, you will revise the document not once but many times. Only after a good review and revision process will your document be signed off.

 

What Skills Should a Technical Writer Have

A great technical content writer knows how to structure the information correctly. They logically provide the chief points. It enables the reader to understand what they need to without going through every single word. Here are some qualities of effective writers. These skills are crucial for anyone who wants to know how to become a technical writer.

Technical writer skills

 

1. Good writing skills

A person writing technical documentation should first be a good writer. A feature of high-quality software documentation is the clarity of the message. It can only be accomplished by a person who knows how to put complex ideas into easy-to-understand words and sentences.

An effective way to improve your writing skills is to read more technical texts and analyze how other writers have chosen the words. It will help you to gain clarity over text structures.

 

2. Ability to work with technical writing tools

A lot of companies today are using software for creating technical documentation. These writing tools are specifically developed for technical writing and provide task-specific functionality. These documentation tools have workflows for writer teams and also support written formats like PDF and Word. A good technical content writer should be aware of all these tools and how they work. It will help them to produce high-quality technical works.

 

3. Research Skills

Every technical content writer needs research skills, but it’s more important for those who work in an outsourcing company. It’s because such a company gets clients about which they aren’t much familiar with. Creating software documentation for them isn’t easy and demands significant expertise. So, the technical writers spend hours researching, gathering as much information as they can about a specific client or domain. Technical research can be segmented into two major categories. It includes:

  • Audience analysis – It’s the research you conduct throughout your writing process. It involves comprehending the target audience, including their levels of knowledge of the product, demographics, their interests, and requirements.
  • User experience – It includes the readability of your document after the product has been released. It explains how simple it is to utilize a service or a product for its target customers.

 

4. Ability to work in a team

Technical writers need to know how to work effectively in a team. So if you want to know how to become a technical writer, you should have effective communication skills to collaborate with subject matter experts, designers, and editors. It’s because things like user guides and manuals can only be clear when the writer knows how a specific software or a product works. There’s a lot of communication involved. So be ready to work as a part of a big team.

 

5. Design skills

Remember that technical writers convey technical information via the written format and visually through infographics, graphs, and videos. So, design skills that make the content more attractive and appealing are also a part of technical content writing. Some essential design skills that a writer needs include the following:

  • Information design means the ability to verbally and visually represent data in an easy-to-understand way.
  • Information architecture implies the capacity to arrange and structure data in a user-friendly manner.
  • The fundamentals of graphic design entail conveying complicated information through helpful illustrations visually. It’s another great skill needed in a technical writer.
  • Typography means the ability to arrange and show the written word accurately according to the type of technical document.

 

6. Skills of Editing

Technical writers have the skill to edit and format their work critically. They keep improving the technical information until the final piece becomes entirely understandable to the reader. While editing a draft, technical writers gauge their work against the following parameters.

  • Punctuation and spelling
  • Style and structure
  • Tone of voice
  • Technical vocabulary

 

Types of Technical Content Writers

Technical writers are of two types. They can either be in-house employees or freelancers. In-house employees work for a particular company either as a technical staff with writing duties or as full-time writers. The latter collaborates with subject matter experts to create the needed documents.

On the other hand, freelancers provide content writing services to a wide array of clients to create their technical documents. If you pursue freelance technical writing as a career, you will have the freedom to choose your subject areas and clients. Today, there is an increase in online freelance platforms, as more businesses require technical writing. So, there are many contracts available to freelance technical writers.

 

Who Should Make Technical Writing a Career Choice?

Technical writing is a career option that does not have any direct requirements for a diploma or degree. You can get jobs just by having some experience in it and a good portfolio. Generally, those who have a bachelor’s degree, preferably in English or journalism, find the idea of becoming a technical content writer quite exciting.

But many also choose this as a career after spending time in elementary education, business, or academia. Those with prior experience in journalism can also communicate effectively with subject matter experts. So, for them also the field of technical writing is appropriate.

A passion for learning about technology and being tech-savvy are two essential traits of writers who thrive in this domain. If you desire to break into this field, start by gathering some experience so that you have ample writing samples to show to your prospective employer.

 

The Perks of Being a Technical Writer

Today, technology is developing at an unprecedented rate. Everyone uses some electronic equipment or device every day. That’s why technical writer services are always in demand by big and small companies. Organizations want talented individuals who can write user guides, manuals, and instructions clearly and explain to people what to do to get their desired goals.

As a technical writer, you’ll get to learn new things every single day. When you write, you’ll get familiar with new technologies and find much about how they work. Another great benefit of being a technical writer is the chances you’ll get to help people. People can only understand how to use highly advanced technologies like driverless cars due to technical writers. The satisfaction that one receives from helping others is truly unrivaled.

 

Final Words

Effective technical writing is undoubtedly a lucrative skill. Technical writing services are helping various businesses to communicate and educate their target audience about their products and services. If you want to take it up as your profession, you need to acquire the various skills mentioned in this article. This guide will help you to plan, structure, and start producing compelling pieces of technical work.