Technical Writer Archives

Advantages of Being a Technical Writer

Have you ever been one of these who end up sitting around wondering if there is any type of career that just suits you “right down to the ground” Would you love to be able to write but simply cannot see yourself writing a magazine, journal or for the media?

Well, if you have a love for writing and also the liking for a number of industries, think about this: technical writing. Working within this area has several benefits.

First, you have to understand that technical writing is a very popular profession and if you are a good technical writer then you could be guaranteed a good career throughout your working years.

You would also get to select your approach to working whether it is like a full-time technical writer (technical author in the UK) for a specific industry, a writer or perhaps a freelance technical writer.

technical writerOn top off all that a good technical writer can earn a pretty decent salary. You tend to find that a technical writer who works in a permanent position start off with a low salary but it increases with experience.

Whereas if you are a freelance technical writer you tend to be paid a lot more but you have to take into consideration the lack of benefits that a permanent writer has. Also a freelance technical writer has to understand that they are only hired for the life of the project.

A technical writer gets great satisfaction from knowing that their work is helping people to easily understand the product or service they have been writing about. There is no greater feeling for a technical writer to know that their efforts are appreciated by not only their bosses but their intended audience as well.

Being a technical writer gives you variety. They are exposed to the most recent devices, breakthroughs, technologies etc, and find out about them before they are released. It is often the case that through their research of a product or service a technical writer will fully understand how they work long before it is released.

Technical writing can be tough sometimes, and also you will have to put your flow of thought so as and also the little pieces will have to fit correctly. The process it produces keeps your work exciting as long as you have to keep up your desire to write. This provides the energy and pumps you as much as anticipate your work instead of detesting it.

I hope by reading this article you will appreciate the benefits that a career as technical writer can offer you. If you like to write, then do not dismiss the opportunity to become a technical writer if it ever presents itself to you.

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Technical Writer – Don’t Take Criticism Personally

As a technical writer there is every chance that you will be criticised for the work you have done. Learning to deal with the criticism is the important part a technical writer has to understand. Once you come to terms with criticism and accept it with the professionalism you used to create the technical documentation and then use it to improve what you have written is the best thing you can do.

By learning to work with your critics is one of the best skills that a technical writer can possess because it will go a long way to helping your technical writing career flourish.

The majority of editors are exceptionally professional in their job and will provide the kind of changes and suggestions that will enhance your documentation. A good editor is one that will put the intended audience first and their only intention is to work hand-in-hand with the technical writer to create the best result possible.

technical writerAs the technical writer is the person who wrote the words that are being rightly criticised, you will need a fresh pair of eyes to review the document. The document is your creation and you can see nothing wrong with it, but, there is every possibility that because of your familiarity with the document you will miss the errors that the editor will pick up.

However, no two editors are the same. Some editors like to play the bad guy and dispense totally with any form of niceties. They prefer to tell it like it is even if it upsets the technical writer. All they are interested in is getting the job done right and do not care a hoot about the technical writer’s feelings.

The phrase, “don’ take it personally” is not very helpful for the technical writer to hear because it gives them the impression that they are being pacified and that they should just accept the criticism without being able to challenge the criticism.

This frequently used expression implies that anything the technical writer creates is just that and nothing else. Just because you created it doesn’t mean to say that it should have any emotionally hold over you. You have to distance yourself emotionally from what you have written and therefore allow yourself to accept any criticism of your work. Because your main aim is to get the job done as quickly and professionally as possible.

This sort of throw away remark is dangerous because it immediately it gives the impression that any resistance to criticism by the technical writer is just downright petulance and childishness.

With technical writing you tend to find that by overusing certain phrases gives the impression that the writer has of lack of imagination and their writing skills are poor. Therefore, when you hear the phrase, “don’t take it personally,” coming from an editor the conclusion is drawn that this type of remark comes from an editor whose editing skills leave a lot to be desired. The important thing for a technical writer is to not take the “don’t take it personally” line too seriously!

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The Expanding Role of the Technical Writer

A technical writer is increasingly seeing his role expand with all the latest technology available today. The majority of these new products are a result of the growth of the internet. A technical writer who can keep up-to-speed with all this new technology will give them a significant advantage over other technical writers.

Online Communications

There are several major reasons why major companies are using the internet for their online communications and technical documentation instead of traditional marketing methods.

Low costs – it is a lot cheaper professional looking website and direct traffic to it.

technical writerWider reach – the internet has no boundaries. It has created a global marketplace that allows companies to tap into a multitude of buyers. This global audience will online get bigger and bigger when the Eastern countries (India, China, etc) come more online.

Unlimited space – a traditional company is physically restricted by the amount of storage space they have. With the internet there are limitations. One web site can display thousands of products at virtually no cost at all.

Constant contact – the advent of emails has slashed the cost of communicating with customers to virtually nothing. Just think what it used to cost for printing and mailing all the business related information in the past.

Online documentation – Using the internet is not just limited to marketing a company’s products and services. Online documentation saves companies a vast amount of money because it has done away with the printing and distribution costs for all their technical documentation. Plus it cuts down on the use of paper consequently saving trees and creating a greener environment.

Technical writers need to know about these benefits and they can exploit them for their own benefit as well. It is good to let prospective employers or clients know how you feel about these issues because it will create an impression that you care how you can help their businesses and increase your credibility as a technical writer.

The New Components of Technical Writing

The role of a technical writer has expanded to include the following:

  • Email Marketing
  • Online Surveys
  • Websites that could include landing pages, sales pages and auto responders
  • Ezine Newsletters
  • Blogs
  • Online Forums
  • Online Product Descriptions
  • Online Catalogues and Brochures
  • Social Media Administration (Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest etc)
  • Article Writing.

Most of these require the technical writer to use their technical writing skills to create the information required. The good thing for a technical writer is that by adding this form of communication skills to their profile they are not only increasing their income, but they are giving the employer or client a complete one top shop for all their documentation needs. If a technical writer adds all these skills to their arsenal they will be increasing their value as a technical writer.

If you have the ability research the information you need and can combine this ability with an ability to write clear and concise documentation then you will find that technical writing will be a very rewarding profession.

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Is It Easy to Become a Technical Writer?

It is always difficult trying to establish a new career especially when you don’t know whether you have the skill set required for the profession.

This is often the case with the technical writing profession, especially with aspiring writers who want to become a technical writer but have no previous experience in the industries and businesses where technical writers are employed.

One of the big drawbacks for any writer trying to break into the technical writing profession is that they cannot produce any examples of previous technical writing. A lot of employers ask to see if you have a portfolio of examples.

technical writerHowever, this is not something to worry too much about because it is not as difficult as it may at first seem to become a technical writer.

If you have any form of writing experience then this will go a long way in helping you break into the technical writing profession.

A great way to enhance your chances of getting a job as a technical writer is to enrol into a technical writing course. There are several very good online courses available that will help you get an appreciation for technical writing. Technical writing is not career that requires extensive study and preparation (unless you decide to take a degree course).

Irrespective of how many courses you undertake the most important thing for a technical writer is to choose a field where technical writers are employed in which you have some sort of knowledge or experience. This is a great asset because you have a background in the language and terminology that you will find necessary to write the technical documentation for the company you have approached.

A great way of opening the door to a career in technical writing is if you know somebody who is already employed in the profession. They will be able to give you some advice on how to go about applying for positions within the profession. They might even be able to recommend you to their company or even give you reference for any other positions and companies you apply to. Never underestimate the value of contacts and insiders in your search for a role within the technical writing profession.

Technical writing is a specialised field of work and maybe a profession that you didn’t originally intended to pursue, but it is not as difficult to become a technical writer as you first thought. There are a wide variety of opportunities within the technical writing profession and there is every possibility that you could be employed as a technical writer far sooner than you think.

If you work on your writing and grammar skills and can offer a portfolio with examples of your work, perseverance can help you in pursuing your goal to become a technical writer.

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Does a Technical Writer Need a Technical Background?

A technical writer needing a technical background is a very emotive topic of conversation depending on the specific industry that the technical writer is working in.

The technical writing profession encompasses a wide range of job descriptions. Therefore, you will find that the majority of technical writers possess a broad range of technical skills and knowledge requirements. This then equates to the less technical the subject, product or service they are writing about, the less stringent the technical knowledge they need.

You tend to find that technical writers that produce end-user documentation and online help do not need an in depth knowledge of programming, although knowledge of the field in which the product is to be used is required.

technical writerTherefore, the definition of “technical” may vary depending on the subject, product or service and more specifically the intended audience.

On the other hand, the more complex and technical the content will require that the technical writer has deep understanding of the subject matter. The technical writer must have some idea of the technology if they are writing original content about a technology. If you are writing technical information about another person’s work, then you can get by with good communication skills with a person that understands the details of the subject.

More often than not an employer will employ a technical writer that has a technical background than one that does not. The employers I have dealt with are very specific about a technical background because they want to ensure that the technical writer has a deep knowledge of their industry. Also it gives the employer the confidence of knowing that the documentation the technical writer produces will meet the criteria they need.

I believe it is a great plus to have a technical knowledge of the subject you will be writing about because there are times when you have little background information to work from. You may be an excellent writer, but it is a great advantage to be able to understand what you are writing about. It gives you the confidence of knowing that the documentation you produce will communicate the information more effectively to the end user.

With all technical writing the technical writer requires too have a good rapport with the relevant subject matter expert. The technical writer will need their expert advice and knowledge on what they have written and also they will need them to validate what they have written. This is where a good technical knowledge will help when discussing the content with the subject matter expert.

Throughout my technical writing career I have worked with technical writers who did not have particularly strong technical backgrounds. They found it difficult to create original content and they relied on cut and pasting information from other sources. Basically, they were just editing existing content.

But on the other hand, I have worked with technical writers who had strong technical backgrounds but they could not create useful documentation because they were not effective communicators. They clearly understood the subject matter, but they were unable to convey how it worked or how to use it.

However, it is more important that an effective technical writer has strong writing/communication skills and a deep interest about the subject matter and the audience. These qualities will make it a lot easier for a not very to perform their job.

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