How does anyone become a good technical writer? As demanding this profession sounds the finer skills it requires to work as a tech writer.
This blog would introduce you to the list which can be used to improve your technical writing skills. If you are a learner, you can learn to become an expert in the area. If you are already a technical writer, you can use the tips to magnify your knowledge in order to achieve effective technical writing.
1. Technical skills
To start with, technical skills act as a building block in the area of technical writing. Without this, you cannot accomplish your goal.
There’s a difference between acquiring a degree or diploma in any technical field and having a thorough knowledge of technical areas. The latter one is a must to work as a technical writer.
As a technical content writer, you would need to extensively read through several high level documentations. A specific skill set is required depending on your subject matter of interest. It can range from engineering to medicine or science.
In order to achieve effective technical writing skills in a particular sphere, you need to generate your niche and specialize in it. When writing on a niche topic, you end up developing a great understanding of it. This will help you to enhance your technical writing skills when working for any client or company.
Examples of technical skills: programming languages, coding, operating systems, data analysis, etc.
2. Writing Skills
It’s obvious and the most important one too. Writing precisely and clearly is one golden rule of technical writing.
Every technical writer has to work out on writing a technical report , technical manuals, proposals, SOPs (standard operating procedures) and many more.
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.
Only a well-crafted piece can be viewed as a work of a good technical writer.
Some common nuances of technical writing skills would include:
A. Always use active voice B. Use plain language C. Avoid jargons and overusing pronoun D. Well crafted sentence structure E. Attention to clear formatting
For better and advanced learning of effective technical writing skills, you can also enroll in some certified courses available on online digital platforms.
3. Research Skills
Research and exploration skills are seconded in any typewriting. It forms a backbone for your content so to make it more credible and convincing.
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.
You need to practice aggressively to get a grip on effective technical writing whether you are looking for a full time or a part-time job.
4. Editing Skills
As I mentioned earlier the importance of clear and precise writing as a technical content writer; editing skill works as an addition to make the content even more significant.
Most technical writers usually are very well versed in the formatting tools and editing styles. Technical writing skills involve editing and proofreading your content.
When writing a technical report or manual, the use of diagrams and visuals comes in handy to users or readers. It makes the document more comprehensive.
Effective technical writing in general follows a single layout of style throughout the content. Sentences are direct and suitable choices of words are preferred over flowery sentences.
Better editing skills generally inculcates:
A. Command over English language, spelling and grammar B. Good use of visuals C. Copyediting D. Proofreading and reviewing
5. Communication skills
What is the role of communication in technical writing?
A technical writer when assigned a new project, he/she needs to get more information regarding a product from various sources.
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.
Any miscommunication may result in the delay of the final product.
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.
6. Audience Analysis
Readers define your text. Audience analysis allows you to read your audience and generate the most inclusive content.
Analyzing your audience in technical writing is essential to your success. In order to understand how to present your text; you need to differentiate your readers whether they are highly technical or average or less technical.
Basically, if your audience knows very little about technical areas then your text needs to be least technical; more likely for a layman.
Technical writers revise their texts based on the reader’s knowledge. They intend to target their primary and secondary audience for the product effectively.
What is the scope of your audience, how to present your facts to targeted users, how to write about the specific text about technicalities, determining your end-customers, all of this comes under technical writing skills?
How to do audience analysis?
For this, you need to be sure of a few basic questions:
A. Who is your target audience
B. What they know about your technical field
C. What is their occupation
D. What are their interests and needs
Technical content writers of a corporate firm may not have good access to all the data of end-users. However, if you are working for a client, you tend to get a vast understanding of your audience.
Always remember-“Audience is everything”.
7. Understanding The User
Okay, I know what you are thinking here. Aren’t understanding user and audience analysis the same?
There’s a very minute difference between the two and yet a very significant one. Audience analysis is done to target customers who would read your content. Understanding users is defined as to know who we are writing for, more specifically, who will use the content and not just read.
Reader’s goal is kept in mind while identifying users for your technical document. The entire writing process is determined following the reader’s needs and making sure to answer all their questions.
For technical writers it is important if their user holds any expertise in the topic or if it is completely new to them.
Example- If you are writing a technical report for c-suites or manager of the company, basic questions you would ask yourself could be:
A. What did they read?
B. When they will be reading? (If your text is related to something current or has already occurred before)
C. Why will they read?
Now, these are your executive-level audience. Here, you need to prepare the report relating to managers’ knowledge of the research area. You need to present the factors affecting their decision. The same document for end-users or customers would be completely different as it would include solutions to their problems.
The document report consists of the same technical information. But it has two different users and therefore, two very different documents have to be produced in order to make it useful for both.
8. Mind Mapping and Planning
After audience analysis and understanding the user, the next step is to map your ideas and plan them in a flow. For this, you need to conceptualize the document.
Technical information is complex. Technical writers plan accordingly to break it down for the common person. A lot of factors are considered but not all are included in the final product.
There are several ways to process all the bulk information but mind mapping tools work the best in such cases. You can prepare this before you start writing.
A mind map helps you to include a wide range of information and then highlight the key points or add additional details. It provides an overview of your entire project and makes the process of writing much easier. Mind mapping tools can save a lot of your time which is spent during the planning of the draft.
Some examples of mind mapping tools available for free are Coggle, Mind Meister, and Draw.io.
Also this skill can prove to be very useful when writing a technical report wherein you are working along with SMEs (subject matter experts). You can easily explain your ideas, add or delete inputs with more accuracy.
9. Fluency with Digital Tools
Technical writing skills aren’t just about writing content for technical projects.
Tech writing is also about dealing with various digital tools. The tools could be for content writing like MS Word, Grammarly, Hemingway, Evernote, Freemind, Madclap, Robohelp.
Apart from writing tools, technical writers are often required to create visuals, graphics, and screenshots for the content. This step helps the readers to get an easy understanding of technical information.
Thus, basic knowledge about Adobe Photoshop, Framemaker, Microsoft Visio, Camtasia Studio, etc could be beneficial in developing effective technical writing.
Technical content writers, who are working for some time now, would know that clients mostly provide the digital tools for the required content. But, you need to be well versed with the use of those tools to create high-quality content, or else it might get rejected or delayed.
The entire list majorly focuses on a specific part of the work for a technical writer. So, in the end, it is very important to get the idea of technical documentation on a bigger mechanism.
You already know technical content writers need to go together with SMEs. Apart from this, they also need to communicate with other departments of designers, developers, editors, and so on.
Technical writing requires so many involvements with other spheres for various reasons. The process of document preparation works along with the entire team. Coordinated teamwork could be a great value for any team that desires to produce the best.
After all “teamwork is dreamwork”.
We now finally come to the end of this blog. All of the above-mentioned skill sets are of great importance to anyone aspiring to be a good technical writer.
You need to understand that not everyone can be a perfectionist but with little effort every day one can truly achieve immensely. You might not attain all the skills at once or you may succeed in some and fail in others. All you need to do is to keep your learning as your only priority.
Hope you would have gained something after reading the blog. Now it’s your turn to work on it and improve yourself.
All the best!!
In technical writing, you are required to convert the complex information into a coherent form. It is different from other forms of writing like business writing or creative writing or academic writing or scientific writing. It encompasses a subject relating to documentations which often calls for explanations or directions.
Technical writers work for multi-disciplines in an organization. Their job may also depend on different industries or sectors. These writers together with technical staff draft out the technical information to the user audience for their easy understanding and usage.
No, you do not require any degree or diploma in the technical field to become a technical writer. However, appropriate skills and knowledge about technical areas are definite and important to work as a technical writer.
Technical writing is indeed a well-paying job. In fact, it has one of the highest pay scales among various forms of writing. A technical writer working for a corporate firm may earn between 4-5 lakhs per annum. However, if you are an expert your wage would go even higher with your experience. Writers working as freelancers also make a good sum of money depending on their number of clients.
- How to become a technical writer?
To become a technical writer, you need to learn and perfect some basic skills in technical areas. One can easily learn about digital tools from different online courses. Writing skills have to be very polished for a job as a technical writer. Niche specialization may help you the most in the journey of technical writing.
- How to get a job as a freelance technical writer?
Online platforms for freelance work in technical writing such as LinkedIn, Upwork, Remoteok.io, Fiverr can be helpful to get jobs.