What is Technical Writing, and What Skills Do You Need to Become a Specialist?
- The global technical writing industry is expected to grow by 12% by 2030.
- Specialists in this field used to call themselves translators from English to English, as their main task is to convey the important information in a simple language.
- This content is always an answer on “how to do something.”
- Technical and business writing are usually similar genres. Still, you should learn about their fundamental differences.
- To become a demanded specialist, you will need to master the five crucial skills needed for technical writing.
Table of Content
- Introduction to Technical Writing
- The Exact Definition of Technical Writing Job
- How is Technical Writing Different From Business Writing?
- What is the Job of a Technical Writer?
- Top 5 Skills Needed for Technical Writing in 2021 + 5 Crucial Rules to Write Your First Copy
- How to Become a Technical Writer if You Have Zero Experience?
- Frequently Asked Questions about Technical Writing
- Final Thoughts
Introduction to Technical Writing
A technical writer prepares technical documentation for all kinds of programs and automated systems – user manuals, technical specifications for developers, documentation of external APIs, descriptions of internal systems.
This profession is a great way to share your knowledge with others and master the topic you cover while showcasing your skills.
In this article, we considered everything you should know to become a tech writer. We’ll break down the concept of technical writing, the knowledge and skills you’ll need, and tips for improving your talents.
The Exact Definition of Technical Writing Job
Outsourced software testing companies offer writing services to customers as part of their quality services. Still, some of you may not know the difference between a tech writer and a regular copywriter.
By explaining the meaning of “technical writer,” we will immediately define the scope of their duties. This is a person responsible for creating and updating documentation. Let’s say – the intermediary between the product and the user.
The responsibility of this specialist is to explain a complex product in simple language to help users solve the problem. We like to describe this as a “translation from English to English.”
Technical writing provides as much information as possible in the minimum amount of text. So, it’s essential to structure the document and write quality content.
They describe the systems and how to work with these systems. As we said earlier, it can be a user manual for registering a return or a scheme for the interaction of API methods, but this is always the answer to the question “how to do something.”
How is Technical Writing Different From Business Writing?
Technical and business writing are similar genres at first glance, but fundamental differences are important to be aware of.
Technical writing is about describing complex subjects in simple terms. This is often done by experts in one area or another, who convey the meaning to the readers as they understand it. Such specialists communicate with clients who may not understand some aspects.
On the contrary, business writing aims to increase sales and profits, and its audience includes everyone from potential clients to company personnel.
So, let’s take a look at the tasks of specialists in these areas.
As for business writing, the most important tasks here include:
- Advertising – turning potential customers into clients. For this, you will need to create a copy that will persuade people to buy your products or services. Writers often use techniques such as raising the interest, listing the features to attract people, and comparing them over their competitors.
- Memos – internal documents to deliver an important message to the team within the company. They translate complex information into a simple message so that everyone will understand it.
- Minutes – video or audio recording for writing proof of the content of meetings. Most of the time, this is used within the organization. Still, it can also be requested from outside agencies.
- Proposal or pitches – is a crucial part of business writing. This means creating a presentation about the company or the specific product for future business deals. These documents aim to convince people to purchase a product or service.
- White papers – an overview of a product or service that a company promotes. These are high-level proposals used for B2B marketing. In most cases, these papers are formal and technical in nature and contain the underlying philosophy of a company.
Now, let’s consider some of the main tasks of a technical writer. In this article, we’ll talk in detail about their responsibilities.
Technical writing includes, but is not limited to:
- Regulatory reports and audits – detailed internal and external affairs are necessary for compliance in many fields.
- User manuals – manuals are some of the most common technical writing projects. Specialists are needed to ensure that information is correct and simple.\
- Policy and governance – experts should write internal policy and procedures to ensure it’s clear, trustworthy, and protects all personnel.
- Cybersecurity – is a crucial area where technical writing expertise is needed.
All types of business writing involve creating persuasive content to convey the truth to readers and make it as easy as possible.
On the contrary, technical writing is not about convincing people to do or buy something. This content doesn’t include the calls to action but an explicit instruction for users.
What is the Job of a Technical Writer?
A technical writer is a member of the development team who analyzes the target users and their tasks. The specialists should plan what types of documents a company needs for a product.
Also, writers can help the development team correctly name the buttons on the interface, formulate hints on hover. For example, they often interact with testers, business analysts, and the product owner to carry out their duties.
The basis for working as a technical writer is writing skills. Ability to write in English, feel the language while knowing the rules and algorithms for technical documentation.
The material can target the needs of the team or the customer’s product. However, the primary task remains to make clear and consistent documentation.
The specifics of a technical writer may vary. For example, if this specialist works on material “from developer to client,” they first analyze the existing software and then write instructions.
The documentation is usually created according to the following scenario:
- Determine the purpose of the document and its audience – outline the structure, agree with the customer. There will likely be re-writes, but it’s more important to understand what issues the customer wants to cover here.
- Understand to whom and on what topics you can ask clarifying questions – find experts and agree on the format of work with them.
- Fill out the document and give it to fellow technical writers and experts for proofreading.
- Finish the structure and texts – be sure to give it to someone for proofreading and then present it to the customer.
They should have deep knowledge in the area they write about and formulate the essence in the most straightforward and laconic way.
The responsibilities of a technical writer may include:
– Writing user documentation, help systems;
– Writing documentation for system administrators;
– Preparing graphic diagrams according to the specified parameters;
– Regular updating of existing documentation by software releases;
– Creating educational materials for new users.
In fact, a tech writer is confronted with documentation and other material as well. Sometimes they write, edit or translate release notes, software requirements specifications, CV, PowerPoint presentations, meeting minutes, user stories, and record how-to video tutorials.
First of all, they find out who exactly is the subject matter expert of the assigned task and conduct an interview with them to learn all the details about the new functionality.
Top 5 Skills Needed for Technical Writing in 2021 + 5 Crucial Rules to Write Your First Copy
Here is a list of the top 5 essential skills you need to find a technical writing job. So, what should you do to become a demanded specialist in 2021?
#1 Learn to write
Looking to improve your written language? Follow these rules:
Learn the grammar of the language you intend to write in.
Learn to illustrate your speech with examples – this is a powerful tool to convey your message when writing.
Read copies of other technical writers. Reading is beneficial for expanding your vocabulary and finding ideas to write about.
Most importantly, practice writing regularly. You can define a schedule for creating copies for your portfolio.
#2 Get to know your audience
Tailoring your content to your audience will allow your article to stand out from competitors. So, it’s important to learn how to determine your target readers.
By learning the needs of your readers, you will be able to focus on them when writing an article and correctly present the material. Still, how do you “get to know” your audience?
For this, ask yourself questions like “Who are my readers, and why are they reading my article? What do they expect?”
For example, before writing this article, we came up with the following answers:
- Who are our readers? People who want to become technical writers.
- Why are they reading this? They want to learn about the skills required to become a specialist.
- What do they expect to find in our article? Everything they need to start a technical writing career: skills, tips, and more!
After answering these questions, you will be able to identify your audience. This will help you arrange your copy so that your readers get the most out of it.
#3 Include the appropriate terms
If you write an article for beginners, use accessible, understandable terms. You can also use specific examples to help convey your message to your readers.
Set aside 30 minutes a day to read writers’ copies and analyze what terms they often use. If you’re not familiar with some words and phrases, check their meaning and write them down in your vocabulary for your future articles.
#4 Learn to seek information
Tech writers don’t know everything. So, even if you’re familiar with technology, sometimes you have to understand it better before writing about it. This way, you will be sure that your article conveys all the facts in the best possible way. You don’t want to spread misleading information, do you?
Finding information can include:
- Searching on websites and in similar articles.
- Reading books on this topic.
- Contacting someone competent in the field.
#5 Develop your own style
Have you ever wondered why people leave comments like “Thanks to your article, I finally figured it out” or “I read a bunch of articles on this topic, but only now it became clear, thanks!”?
Most often, it’s because of the author’s unique style, which helps the reader understand what others couldn’t explain. What does it mean?
If two developers write on the same topic, some readers may understand the first article more clearly, and some may understand the second. Why? Readers will perceive the material from different authors in different ways.
So, how do you create your own unique style? Stay true to yourself, let your thoughts flow freely, and don’t copy other writers.
Yes, you can be inspired by other people’s works. Still, you shouldn’t forget who you are!
Now that we have learned all the crucial skills of a technical writer, we should point out that you can develop them over time. Do not wait for the moment when you learn everything and finally can get to work – try it right away.
5 tips to help you write your first copy:
When you finish the first draft of your next article, remember a few tips:
Don’t put everything into one paragraph. Instead, break the text into sections so that each of them conveys its idea.
Write in short, precise sentences.
After you finish your first draft, read it out loud as you imagine yourself to be the reader. This will help you edit your copies more effectively.
Only start editing a draft when you’re focused.
Consult with experts on the topic of your article if you’re not an expert in the subject you’re writing about.
How to Become a Technical Writer if You Have Zero Experience?
To start a career as a technical writer, you need to be persistent, patient, and attentive to detail. We will need to work with the information, quickly understand the technical aspects, and describe them for a specific audience.
As for professional knowledge, you will not find such a faculty in the university. So, future specialists should master the profession on their own:
- Read the Microsoft Manual of Style.
- Explore the style of writing documentation of large companies.
- Learn to clearly and stylistically present information. It’s important to practice a lot. For example, describe the functionality of MS Word and give it to an older relative to read. If they follow your instructions without any problems – congratulations, you have all the chances for success in this profession!
Also, you should learn the main tools that technical writers use: Microsoft HTML Help Workshop, Help & Manual, RoboHELP, MadCapFalre, MadCap Software, AuthorIT, DocBook/XML, DITA, SiberSafe, Adobe FrameMaker, Microsoft Word, OpenOffice, IDEF0, DFD and ER diagrams, UML.
Let’s check what career prospects you will have as a tech writer:
– Grow as a Technical Writer, delve into the specialty;
– Vertical growth: become the head of the technical writing division;
– Become a business analyst, tester, or layout designer (if you are more interested in the technical side);
– Become a marketer or PR specialist (if you are more attracted to creativity).
Frequently Asked Questions about Technical Writing
Who is a tech writer?
A technical writer is primarily a translator from English to English. They speak with experts in the same language and then write materials in a simple language that anyone can understand.
A good developer, with rare exceptions, will not be able to describe the project clearly. However, a technical writer can tell about any complex thing in simple language.
What education should a technical writer have?
Statistics show that the overwhelming majority of technical writers are people connected with literature. Many of them started as ordinary writers and copywriters.
Linking their literary talents with technical skills, they got the perfect combination of qualities for this profession: the ability to quickly understand a mechanism or program of any complexity and describe it in simple and beautiful language.
What is the global role of the technical writer?
- A specialist who translates “from developer to client.” They study the existing equipment or program and write instructions at various levels.
- A technical writer “from client to developer” is already more of an analyst. Their task is to assess the client’s needs, communicate with customers, understand what they need, write all this down, agree with the client, and then convey their thoughts to the developers in a form they understand.
Where can a technical writer work?
It’s challenging to list all the areas of work – this is the entire IT industry, in addition, science and journalism. This is everything related to the use of electronic equipment and energy.
Often, tasks of an analytical nature are set, like economics and business planning. For example, after long-term work as freelancers or journalists, many analysts grew out of technical writers – they wrote reviews, performed market analysis, etc.
What tasks does a tech writer have to do?
– Creating guides
– Writing articles – analytical, review, and descriptive articles.
– Making technical specifications
– Preparing materials for presentations
– Translating texts
– Creating video presentations
– Proofreading and editing
Technical writing remains highly demanded in the job market. Moreover, it’s expected to grow by at least 12% by 2030.
In this article we covered everything you need to start your career as a technical writer even without experience.
After mastering the basic skills and learning the fundamentals of the work process, you can confidently provide your services to IT companies and other organizations that may be interested in technical writing.
Learning this profession requires time and practice. However, we’re sure it’s worth it!
We hope this article helped you get to know this profession and decide whether you want to work as a technical writer or not. We wish you more persistence and confidence to reach the heights of this demanded and interesting specialty.