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Technical Writing | Skills needed to be a technical writer

technical-writing

Hola to all the Technology freak students. Today I am going to talk about something which is in your interest. This blog will discuss technical writing, and skills you must need. Technical writing is a way which helps science students to write a good paper. If you lack skills of technical writing, then you may need assignment help from your friends or from online services. But don’t get disheartened, read this blog and have a good in-depth idea of technical writing.

So today you will read under given topics in this blog. Let’s have a look at them.

  • Traditional Definition of Technical Writing
  • How is Technical Writing Different from Business Writing?
  • What Is the Job of a Technical Writer?
  • Documents Written by a Technical Writer
  • Skills Needed for Technical Writing
  • The Role of Technical Writing for students
  • Common Technical Writing Problems

Traditional Definition of Technical Writing

The traditional definition of technical writing is:

Technical writing is all about documenting processes. These processes are software manuals or instructional materials. Traditionally, it was limited to user manuals of some sort. But with the time this definition has become outdated. Now many more forms of writing come under technical writing.

Let’s see what new definition is:

Technical writing is just a written form of writing. It is used in technical fields earlier and now in most of the occupational fields also. Computer engineering, aeronautics, chemistry, robotics, medical, biotechnology, and many more areas come under technical writing. So in simple words, any sort of technical information used in a writing work comes under the category of technical writing.

How is Technical Writing Different from Business Writing?

If you think that it is similar to business writing, then you are wrong. It sounds like business writing, but it is not. It can be a part of business writing as it deals with documents and topics which are essential for any business. Process and outcomes of technical writing are different and unique. In the rest of this blog, we will discuss with you what exactly technical writing is and work of technical writers.

What Is the Job of a Technical Writer?

The job of a technical writer is technical writing. But a type of technical writing will vary. It totally depends on the industry and the company in which they work. Technical writers often have a multidisciplinary job. For instance hardware engineer technical writing is different from the technical writing of MBA student. When you are a technical writer, you need to be aware of the industry in which you are working. When you make policies and rules, you must use terms according to your field. IT professional will use more terms related to IT industries than terminology of chemical industries. Same is with the college students.

Different courses have different technical language. You need to be aware what kinds of a language you must use while making assignments or framing answers in exams. For instance, if you are a student of computer science, then your use of vocabulary will be different from a student of medicine. It is imperative to understand the right usage of vocabulary with your course.

Documents Written by a Technical Writer

technical-writing

Your job and industry will dictate exactly what type of materials you will write. List of the documents you could be expected to write in a technical manner:

  • Technical Reports
  • Emails conveying technical information
  • Memos
  • User Interface Text
  • Guides and User Manuals
  • Press Releases
  • White Papers & Case Studies
  • Executive Summaries
  • Balanced Scorecards
  • Product Descriptions
  • Proposals
  • Reports
  • Websites

At first, it may be overwhelming to see so many different types of documents. But each document uses a similar writing process and draws on an established set of skills. If you develop a process, you can apply it to any technical document you are creating.

Skills Needed for Technical Writing

technical-writing

Below are the 7 Most Important Skills for Technical writing:

CURIOSITY

First off, you have to have an endless curiosity both for technology and science, on the one hand, writing and communicating on the other. Technical writing flourishes at the intersection of these two interest areas. You do not need to be an expert either in technology or writing since both are vast topics and it’s impossible to know 100% everything that needs to be known, especially in the technology field. The cell phone that I bought 3 years ago is almost obsolete now. As I type these lines, Elon Musk has just introduced the first prototype of his all-electric semi-truck. You must keep learning new software, new hardware, new system concepts. If you are not curious about these things, you won’t survive as a technical writer since you cannot describe and document what you are not curious about.

ORDER

How does your room look? Do you have your socks dangling from the top of the light fixture? Is there a half-empty and week-old pizza box on your bed? Then the chances are you’re not a person who cares a lot about order and hierarchy in your life. To become a good tech writer, you need to have a firm sense of order and discipline. Things that do not line up properly, things that are not stored in a geometrically pleasing manner, sentences and paragraphs that are not introduced with a tree-view hierarchy should bother you. You must have the inner urge to clean up messy things and narrate multi-step procedures in a logical and sequential manner

PATIENCE

Things do not always go smoothly in technical writing. There are many obstacles and unexpected setbacks along the way when you are creating a technical document. These setbacks start from your occasional inability not to understand that system you are documenting to organizational confusion and other office-related difficulties. Sometimes you’ll be behind the schedule and deadline. Or other times there will be so many frequent changes to the product you are documenting that you’ll feel like quitting on the spot and retiring to a quiet fishing village in the middle of the Pacific and not touching your keyboard again.

But everybody feels that way from time to time. It’s not just you. If you have the patience and faith to ride through that difficult wave, it’ll be sunshine again on the other side of the dark mountain. You must have the inner strength to guide you through those difficult episodes to be a good tech writer.

PLAIN WRITING

Technical writing is all about plain, unadorned writing. You must know how to write without the kind of introspective and emotional language that is welcomed in “creative writing.” You are not trying to whip up emotions in your documents. Therefore, try to keep metaphors, adjectives, and adverbs to a minimum. Avoid phrasal verbs, and colloquial local expressions since your writing may be translated into different languages, and some local expressions do not translate well. Try to write in short sentences and in an active voice. Use short regular action verbs like “Get,” “Select,” “Click,” etc. Make an outline in your head of the main message you are trying to convey. Then write in sequential steps, each step following the previous one in a logical manner. Take a course or read a book in plain writing.

ANONYMITY

Technical writers do not get bylines, and they do not build a reputation as other writers do. Usually, no one is aware that they ever exist. They work anonymously behind the lines to create the documents that teach the world how to operate things properly. If you have the urge to make a name for yourself and to shine like a celebrity writer, then technical writing is definitely not for you, and you should reconsider your career choice. You should be comfortable with your anonymity to be a happy technical writer.

SOCIAL SKILLS

Whether you work as a lone-writer or in an office environment, you need the social skills to get along well with colleagues who are usually the best and brightest engineers and managers you’ll ever meet. The SMEs (Subject Matter Experts) you’ll be dealing with in your career as a tech writer will help you if they feel you are respectful of their time. You need them, but most of them would not have much time to devote to you since they are usually very busy with their own projects. So you need to make your homework before interacting with them and be able to carry a regular small talk at other times. It helps to be genuinely interested in your office mates. That’s a skill and gift that’s helpful in all social situations.

TECHNICAL SKILLS

As a tech writer, you’ll be using a lot of different systems and software to produce your user manuals, help files, and a dozen other types of interesting documents. You really have to know how to use such software. There will be some that you’ll have to learn on-the-job, but you should master such basic stuff like MS Word and Excel on your own, before ever stepping into your cubicle. Certifications may help even though not necessary, depending on the requirements of your position.

As a technical writer, it’s always a huge plus to know how to use Adobe products like FrameMaker, RoboHelp, InDesign, Photoshop, and Illustrator. There are other and newer packages like Flare group of products. DITA and structured authoring are making great strides as I write these lines. So, there’s a whole bunch of learning you must do to survive and building a nice career as a technical writer. Wish you good luck

The Role of Technical Writing For Students

Technical writing has various benefits for students. Especially for the students who are in the science field. They can impart their knowledge very easily with the help of the technical terms of the subject. The modern world is evolving at a high pace; everything is advancing with time and so a way of expressing the ideas. Different subjects have different ways of expressing information. You need to be very careful while making assignments. The wrong usage of the word at a wrong time can spoil your result.

If you are a student doing engineering, then you must be good with the technical skills. But having good technical skills are enough? Obviously not, you should have a good hand over technical writing to express your innovation in a desired manner. Role of technical writing is more in the disciplines where science has a role to play.

Scientific areas like electrical engineering involve profound instructions and those instructions are only understood by the people of the same area. Similarly, in the medical field, biological terminology can be only understood by those who are involved in it.

Getting trained in technical writing will help students to gain expertise and skills of providing clear instructions and explaining projects to others. It will also help in making and writing technical documents. Technical writing skills will make a conducive working environment.

Most of the students have a bad experience with technical writing as it has a bigger workload than creative writing. Students need to do rigorous research and study a lot for gaining technical writing skills. However, they can take online assignment help to get an assignment written by expert writers. This is the easiest way to ensure good work.

Common Technical Writing Problems

technical-writing

Scarce data

You are supposed to document how something works, but there is not enough information about the subject to write a comprehensive technical guide. You would be expected to dig out your own investigation, information digging, and fact-checking. And you might need to chase down SMEs and stakeholders to interview them which takes time and finesse. Not having enough info to begin to write or update an existing document is a common problem in tech writing.

Unending reviews

Sometimes reviewing a tech document takes longer than writing it. Either the reviewers are not available, or they take too long to respond. Sometimes the review goes into a “death spiral” when the reviewer is never satisfied, and you are asked to do three, four, five drafts and have no idea when the task will be done. This is another common problem in technical writing.

 Mission creep

You start to write for product A, but soon they tell you A is now B. Just soon after you make a route correction and start to document product B, the news arrives: B will now be released as C. So you go back to the drawing board, retake all the screenshots, change all chapter headings, re-do your TOC and Index, change the footers, etc. and start to rebuild your building. That also happens from time to time in tech writing.

No bylines, no glory

No one usually knows that you are a tech writer since you never get any bylines. It’s rare in my experience for a technical writer to publish anything under her byline. You make good money for sure, especially compared to the poor poets, journalists, and screenwriters. But at the end of a long career, no one will know how hard you fought to hold back the chaos and uphold order in the information universe. If that kind of anonymity bothers you, you should probably choose another line or work.

Optimal granularity

How “granular” your tech writing should be? What detail should you include in your writing? How much is enough for your audience? Should you describe every button and link on the GUI? Or should you just write a troubleshooting guide at the highest level, and not insult the intelligence of your audience by reminding them to click the OK button on every screen after they are done? Granularity is a common issue that is solved the better you get to know your target audience.

Localization

With every passing day tech documents are shared and consumed in different parts of the world by audiences coming from a completely different cultural background. That’s why tech documents are translated regularly and adapted to other cultures. They are “localized.” That requires a special kind of writing that avoids local clichés and favors a sanitized “International English” (in the case of English). Moreover, it actually requires less writing and more visuals and illustrations. Some observers even claim that the future of technical documentation is more in technical illustration and less in technical writing. So the more graphic and visualization skills you have the more you can avoid such localization challenges.

Conclusion

So moving towards the end of this blog, let’s recall whatever things we have discussed above. Firstly I started the blog with the traditional definition of Technical writing and how modern definition differs. The second thing which discussed is the difference between technical writing and business writing. After that, there is a small section of various jobs of a technical writer. Fourthly I talked about the skills required for a technical writer. Fifth, I discussed the role of technical writing in a students life. Lastly, you will read the problems of technical writing. I hope this blog helped you in learning what technical writing is all about. Please give us your feedback regarding this topic. Thank you

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