Have you wondered how a complex idea gets from one person’s brain into another person’s brain, even if those people are separated by thousands of miles? The answer is almost always through the skill of a technical writer. While it is true that there are many different types of writers, technical writers are a breed unto themselves. And there are reasons why technical writers are so unique and why they are in such demand.
To start, a technical writer is responsible for creating written documents that are concise and clear. These documents must communicate a variety of technical information aimed at a specific audience. Understanding that word “audience” is crucial to becoming a successful technical writer. Here is what we mean.
As mentioned above, a technical writer is responsible for communicating information. But how he or she delivers that information depends on who they are addressing. For instance, if a technical writer is charged with writing a consumer user manual for some product, they would not draft the document the same way as they would if they were charged with drafting a document intended for, say, engineers responsible for creating that product. The same holds true if the writer were drafting a document for industrial manufacturing purposes.
In order to pull this off, a technical writer must be knowledgeable of the subject that he or she is writing about. When a technical writer is charged with writing documentation concerning medical procedures, it is always better if that writer knows something about medical procedures. The same holds true for those who are charged to write on topics associated with electronics, engineering, chemistry, IT technology, and a variety of other topics and industries.
While every technical writer will have his or her own system of writing, generally, a writer will begin by doing extensive research into the subject matter that she will be writing on. If the writer has been assigned a how-to booklet, she may actually get the product and go through the steps, detailing the steps to take. The document is created and then passed along to a supervisor or product team manager who will evaluate the document and request changes or edits if needed. Once the document is edited and verified, it is then published. In many cases, illustrations or spec sheets are included in a technical document, these, however, are normally not the responsibility of the tech writer.
In order to work as a technical writer, one must be very proficient with his or her native language. Grammar and spelling must be spot on and the writer must be able to reduce complex ideas into sentences that are understandable by the intended audience. He or she must also be able to check facts and verify information when necessary. For most advanced writers, a degree in their chosen field (engineering, medicine, mechanics, etc) will go a long way in helping them secure the best jobs at the best pay. Technical writers often work alone or are self-employed, but many others are part of an in-house team of writers. The actual work environment will vary depending on the company the writer works for at the time.