A technical writer is responsible for technical communication. He or she creates product documentation in a language that the target audience understands — that is why it is good when one tech-writer knows several languages. The target audience can be a user of your application, a technical support employee, or even a developer. If the documentation is read by users, then it is called external, and if it is written for colleagues — internal.
For users, technical writers create instructions on how to do something in the application, or describe what to do if everything goes wrong with this application or a program. For technical support, they describe how to properly help users. For programmers, they write complex instructions, for example, what can be done with the API.
Why would you like to become a technical writer in 2021? First of all, it is a job in the IT-sphere that is not actually IT. So, being a technical writer you don’t need to be a programmer to receive all the benefits that IT-industry employers receive. Secondly, it is a growing industry, and despite the fact that the job description has actual tech- in it, it won’t be soon replaced by robots. Why? Because a tech writer’s job is to describe what robots/programs do and how to ‘communicate’ with them the most efficiently. More than a decade definitely will pass before an actual robot can do it. There is even a chance that it will stay impossible even for AI. Another reason — there is a variety of “bordering” spheres that will gladly give you a job when you decide to quit technical writing. So here we see an interesting, well-paid job in a rapidly developing industry that is protected now and will be protected later.
Types of documentation Tech Writer should learn
Different types of documentation require different levels of technical knowledge. You can become a technical writer if you graduate from philology, but are not afraid to learn new things.
- User Documentation. User documentation, helpdesk, help systems, tutorials for new users. Such documentation describes how to use the service, answers a specific question, or describes a function.
- Administrator Guide. It is made for support system administrators and other technicians. Such documentation will describe not how to use the product, but how to configure it, for example, how to configure the server-side of the program or make a backup. To write such documentation, you need to be very familiar with the product, because you will have to write something that even the technical support does not know.
- Developer Guide. It is a knowledge base with very technical information, consisting not so much of text as of code snippets with comments. For example, with a description of how communication is carried out between the client and server parts of the program. Requires at least basic programming knowledge to be able to determine what the code is about. Most often, such documentation is written by the developer himself, but the technical writer does the editorial work: he makes sure that the structure is clear, the guide is combined with the editorial policy for the rest of the documentation so that there are no grammatical or stylistic errors.
- These are long texts that give a complete description of the product or functionality. For example, many companies describe the GDPR data processing standard as applied to a particular company. Such documentation usually contains a lot of information, there are graphs and diagrams.
If you are not sure that you can deal with these kinds of papers from the very beginning and need someone professional to proofread you or help you with creating a document, you can hire paper writers from a reliable service and delate some of your tasks from the very beginning. Also, if before starting working you need some additional education, you can use writing experts to assist you with your homework assignments as well.
Wide skill set for a technical writer
This work is very suitable for both ESL and ENL writers. No matter where you work and what your native language is, for this job, you need a high level of English, clarity of presentation, the ability to write intelligibly and stylistically correctly. Refer to the style guides (we’ll talk about them below), learn to write succinctly and understandable for the audience of the text. For example, if the text is for beginners, avoid complex terms.
You will need the copywriting skills of identifying the target audience and writing texts taking into account the characteristics of the target audience, understanding the benefits and pains of the reader. As with any text, you need to be able to collect and structure information, write and format the text so that it is easy to read. Just like any commercial text, technical documentation solves a business problem. For example, the goal of a user manual is to reduce the workload on the support department.
Technical knowledge of markup languages, the basics of web development and system administration will be useful to you. At a minimum, you will need to understand from whom on the team you can get the information you need.
Professional text editors a tech writer uses vary by task and complexity. You can start writing documentation in Google Docs, but as the number of links and levels increases, it will be difficult to maintain it. Then professional editors for technical writers come to the rescue: MadCap Flare or Confluence. In addition to texts, technical writers can record video instructions. To do this, you need to understand how screen recording tools like Snagit or Screencast O’Matic work.
It is not an exhaustive list of what you may need to become a well-paid tech writer. Still, it is a good idea to start with these skills and later build up your professionalism from there. Tech-writing is a good and perspective occupation worth investing your time in.