Technical Writing Archives

Can a Person Who Has No Technical Writing Experience Become a Technical Writer?

People who do not have hardly any technical writing experience should not be discarded out of hand. There is every possibility that they could become proficient technical writers if they are given the opportunity. They should not be discouraged from taking up technical writing if they have a strong interest in writing and produce examples of their previous work.

For instance, if the person has got high grades for their dissertations/essays at college or they have had letters published in magazines or newspapers then they clearly understand how to organize their ideas and put them into words. This type of person should not be discouraged from a technical writing career just because they have no experience.

technical writingIt is not a question of whether the person can write that is usually the problem but if they know how to use the publishing software that the company uses to produce their technical documentation. You tend to find that companies like to have their newly employed technical writer to “hit the ground running” from day one. They don’t what to spend too much time letting the new employee play around with the software for any length of time before they start to produce the documentation.

To alleviate this problem the prospective technical writer must do their research on the company first to find out what publishing software the company use. Then they need to read up on the software and get to understand how it works because you can guarantee that questions will be asked about the software at the interview stage.

However, these days the majority of companies use well-designed templates and they usually have a senior technical writer who can oversee and supervise the new technical writer for the first couple of several weeks. This type of scenario makes the argument of not employing an inexperienced technical writer pointless.

There are a multitude of technical writing courses available on the internet that will help anybody gain the knowledge they need to help them get that first job as a technical writer.

Unskilled technical writers tend to find interviews intimidating and nerve racking because they don’t know what to expect. That is why they must do their research on the company. What the company is about, what it produces, and more specifically how they produce their technical documentation. Armed with as much information as possible about the company will go a long way in helping the inexperienced technical gain employment.

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The Principles of Technical Writing

Well-written and accurate documentation plays a major role in any company’s customer support strategy because it helps to reduce support costs. Technical writing plays a big part in the support equation.

Technical writing is much more than just technical jargon, and structured, concise instructions. As the intended audience for the technical writing could be for both technical and not-technical people it must to convey its message so that both sets of people understand it.

technical writingThe main purpose of a technical writer when approaching a new technical writing project is to ensure that they maintain focused on what they are writing about. The information they are producing has to be organized and structured within the laid down style that is appropriate for the intended audience. By sticking to the basic principles of technical writing the technical writer is ensuring that the documentation is clearly understood by the reader.

The following is the six basic principles of technical writing that a technical writer has to take in to consideration.

Content

There are five basic questions a technical writer has to ask themselves when starting a new project – who, why, what, how and when. Answering these questions will allow the technical writer to be able to develop the content for any type of technical documentation. For example, let’s say the technical writer has to create a user guide for a new video recorder. Before creating the user guide, they will have to plan the content of the user guide by applying following key questions to the situation:

  1. Who will read the user guide?
  2. Why do need to create the user guide?
  3. What is this user guide going to offer its intended audience?
  4. How is the user guide going to be delivered?
  5. When does the user guide have to be ready (publishing date)?

The audience and purpose of the documentation

Before beginning any new writing project, the technical writer has to analyze the intended audience and identify the purpose for the document. The technical writer will need to ask the following questions about the audience:

  1. Who will read the documentation?
  2. What are their biases?
  3. What responsibilities does the technical writer have when communicating the information to the audience?

With regard to the purpose of the documentation, technical writer will need to know what the documentation will accomplish and also what should it do.

Styleguide

Technical writers will more than likely use a company styleguide (if there is one) to ensure that their documentation has a structured and organized pattern so that it gives consistency to their writing. A styleguide will provide the document with continuity so that the audience can comprehend the information. For example, technical writers need to organise their ideas in a specific chronological format because without a specific layout and structure to the documentation it will be very confusing for the reader to understand.

Writing Style

Technical writers will need to change their writing style depending on the audience and situation they are writing about. If they are writing technical documentation then it needs to be formal and devoid of any emotion as you get with creative writing. Whereas, if say they were an email to one of the senior managers involved in the project then their approach would more casual than formal.

Accessing the information

Accessibility applies to the ease at which the intended audience can gain access to the information they need from the technical documentation. A technical document must at least contain a table of contents, headers and footers, list of illustrations/tables, page numbers, etc.

Also a technical document must adhere to a specific heading and sub heading structure to break down the information into relevant areas that the reader can access easily.

Grammar

A technical writer must adhere to all the rules of conventional grammar. Also it is the technical writer’s responsibility to proofread and edit their documentation to detect and correct any errors in the writing, graphics, typography and layout.

In summarising, a technical writer must ensure that they incorporate the above mentioned principles into their everyday writing style. This will go a long to make them not only a better writer but their technical documentation will be appreciated by both their peers and readers alike.

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Technical Writing Is Meant to Convey a Technical Idea

There are plenty of areas that need technical writing. It is a type of writing that describes the appropriate technology along with other concepts which are associated with it. It may be created having a wide selection of viewers at heart. It may be as specialized as detailing how you can repair your car generator for automotive technicians or even describing the way to look at the engine oil for somebody that does not understand the location of the dipstick. The purpose of technical writing is always to express that information and facts to ensure the audience can understand what it is.

Before anybody begins the technical writing task they have to understand what the prospective readership will be as well as exactly what the objective of the actual writing will be. Dependent upon as to who the content is good for then the procedure may begin by having a meeting with the individual authorizing the actual task. This is often to ensure the technical writer can understand what the overall task is going to entail.

technical writingWithout having that information along with comprehending the technical writing task the technical writer won’t be able to convey the right information to the actual target audience. It might have incorrect details within it.

A fundamental element of virtually any technical writing will be the subject matter expert (SME). The technical writer is not always the actual SME, plus it very feasible that they do not actually have the actual specialized understanding of the product or service to create their particular documentation. The SME can provide just about all the facts they require as well as solve virtually any related queries.

As an example the technical writer may not know what a piston is or even what the compression setting is, so they will be able go to the chief technician and inquire precisely how these things function. This will ensure that the technical writer can finish the task using the correct details.

Because the objective of technical writing is always to promote the correct information then talking with an SME could possibly be the key to the actual task. The majority of SMEs are extremely very helpful in aiding the technical writer simply because they realize it is their own facts the technical writer is actually counting on to create the actual documents.

The individual that does the actual technical writing will be revealing details for the audience to ensure they will completely understand what are the service or product will be and the way to utilize them correctly. The particular task by itself could be tailored for a big or small target audience, based on exactly what the technical documentation is being produced for.

The technical writer must ensure that that they realize whom the actual technical documentation is designed for and exactly what the information they’re writing will be and just how the actual expected target audience is actually likely to utilize it. Technical writing can be used for various areas with various objectives.

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Technical Writing Courses

With the advances that technology has made and the way companies, industries, have taken to these advances has brought about the increased requirement for good technical communications.

A spin off from this technological revolution has been the need for good quality technical writers that are educated to standards required by the technical communications industry. This requirement has brought about the development of technical writing courses.

There is an ever increasing amount of technology today that is being used by a lot of people who do not know how to use it (i.e. DVD players, mobile phones, etc). That is why technical writers play such a vital role in conveying the complex technical information and instructions needed for this new technology to the people who need it the most.

If you can research information and are capable of translating complex technical information into simple information that people with less understanding than you are able to understand, then you have the ability to become a good technical writer.

technical writing coursesJust having the ability to write is not enough you need to combine this ability with the expertise you require to be a technical writer. This expertise is something you gain from both technical knowledge of the products involved plus a course in technical writing.

As a technical writer your job tends to be writing maintenance manuals, operating instructions, user guides etc, for a wide range of products or services. These products and services can cover from the TV you have at home, the car you drive or even the aeroplane you take to go on holiday. The range is vast and basically can be described as any form of technology that requires explaining in its simplest form will require a technical writer to communicate that information to the end user.

If you want to become a successful technical writer then you will need to evaluate what field you want to specialise in and try to find a suitable technical writing course that meets your needs.

The majority of people have come in contact with some form of technical documentation that does not give us the information we require, or it doesn’t clearly explain some procedure that we must understand.

I think the majority of people get a little bit frustrated when they come across poorly organised or poorly written documentation that is supposed to convey information that we need to understand. That is why there is an ever increasing demand for graduates of technical writing courses that can produce good technical documentation.

If you are already an excellent communicator, technical writing training gives you the polish you need to turn you into a great technical communicator.

There are an abundance of technical writing courses to be found on the internet. Plus the laptop computer has become an unequalled writing tool to use to pursue a technical writing course. Just like the internet has provided an excellent venue and communication means by which an online education in technical writing can be achieved.

The most effective technical writing training can be found with education establishments that have accredited online programs. Effectively students can earn college levels in technical writing that will give them a great base for a career as a technical writer.

Any form of technical writing training also puts you at the front of the queue when it comes to applying for the best jobs, well above candidates who haven’t devoted any time or effort to this kind of written communication.

If you are thinking of a career in technical writing or are already employed in the profession, then it is worth looking into what type of online technical writing courses are available.

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Is Technical Writing Boring?

A lot of people believe technical writing is boring. Having spent almost 25 years in the profession I can honestly say that description of technical writing is so far from the truth it beggars belief. In fact I have found it to be a very challenging and stimulating career.

But, I have to admit I do like technical communications and especially technical writing because I take great pleasure in writing and organizing technical information in ways that the intended audience can easily understand and use.

I believe that technical documentation that is well written and conveys the message to the intended audience is a great asset for any company’s marketing department.

OK, so let’s see if technical writing is actually ‘boring’…

I suppose in some cases technical writing can be classed as boring. Why is that then? Well, because of the nature of the beast, technical writing needs to convey a consistent and precise form of communication. There should not be any discrepancies in the style and content of the information.

technical writingYou have to remember that the aim of technical communications is not to be entertaining or emotional. That form of writing falls under the category of creative writing.

If you have taken any creative writing courses, then one of the first things you have to master is the variety of expression. Fiction and emotional engagement requires a wide variety of words, metaphors, and phrasing to keep the reader’s interest alive and to help them to visualize the human aspect of the writing.

But technical writing is not like creative writing in any way, shape or form. Because the essence of creative writing is that the content is inconsistent and contains diverse expressions that are woven into the structure of the writing.

This type of writing can create all kinds of problems for a technical document. A technical document needs to be consistent and something that the end user can rely on. There we have it, yes technical writing could be classed as ‘boring’ because it is reliable to a fault. There again that is what technical writing is all about.

For a technical writer to achieve their goal they need to ensure that the technical writing is disciplined and consistent throughout the whole document. For that consistency to prevail then, for example, if a certain component is called a cylindrical shaft, then it needs to have the description (cylindrical shaft) throughout the whole document. Consistency is the key in good technical writing.

I believe that the people who criticise technical writing for being “boring” confuse the goal of this form of writing with that of creative writing. It is an easy mistake to make because in one way I suppose technical writing is a form of creative writing but instead of feelings and emotion it contains technical information.

Well, I suppose to some degree I have to agree that technical writing can be boring but in the nicest way possible way. Technical writing serves the purpose it is intended for and so long as that is the case then who am I to disagree.

That’s my opinion and if others feel differently well who am I to pressure them into thinking otherwise.

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Technical Writing Tips and Tricks

Technical writing is a great profession to belong to but it can be frustrating job if you don’t stick to a set pattern in creating the documentation. Here are few technical writing tips and tricks to help with your technical writing.

Know the target audience. It is important that a technical writer knows who the end user of the documentation will be. Are they going to be technical or non technical? They are two totally different audiences. One will understand technical information whereas the other will not. You have to ensure that the content is specifically written so the end user can easily understand it

What is your writing goal? You must make sure that your writing makes sense. Will the end user understand what you have written? It is no good if you have written a very detailed technical manual if your intended audience cannot understand it. It is a good idea to review your writing to make sure you are writing for the correct audience.

technical writingUse illustrations and graphics. By using illustrations and graphics it allows the intended audience to understand the information a lot quicker and easier. An illustration or graphic will be far more descriptive of something than words can ever be. I believe it was Confucius who first said: “a picture paints a thousand words.

Use examples. It’s OK for you to understand what you have written but don’t assume that your reader will. If it is a technical document you are writing then it is a good idea to provide the reader with some examples. But, make sure the examples are relevant to the subject and that the end user can understand them.

Proofread your work. You must proofread what you have written. It can be very embarrassing if the documentation you have produced is distributed with errors. Even some of the tabloids and magazines have errors in them. So, make sure that all your documentation is proofread to make sure all errors are found and corrected.

Have a peer review of your work. A peer review process allows you to get a second opinion on what you have written. This is a good idea because there is every chance you might have missed something which would give a totally different meaning to what you have written.

Use headers. By strategically using content relevant headers throughout your document will allow you to break up the content and it will make reading a long manual a lot easier.

Stay in the present tense. When writing, use the present tense instead of future tense – it makes it a lot clearer and concise. By using the present tense it allows you to be specific and to the point and the end user immediately knows and understands what to do.

Give your resources credit. If you have used information from a reference source then make sure you give that source the credit it deserves. If the information has enhanced the quality of your document then you must acknowledge the part the resource has played in improving the quality of your document.

If you implement these technical writing tips and tricks into your technical writing your writing will improve and you will produce better quality technical documentation that the end user will appreciate and more importantly read.

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What Is Technical Writing?

If you are a writer and you are looking for a career in writing but are not sure what area of writing are most appropriate for your skills. The question: “what is technical writing” springs to mind every time you see a job vacancy for a technical writing position. As it is quite possible that you have never heard of technical writing you begin to wonder if you would even been qualified to pursue it as a career.

If you start to think about the phrase “technical writing” I think you will realise it is exactly what is says it is. It doesn’t need a complex description to explain what it is because it is basically writing technical information.

technical writingTechnical writing is a form of technical communication. It is a style of writing that is used in every field of industry, commerce and business. It is used in such fields as the aerospace industry, financial services, engineering, telecommunications, pharmaceuticals and even government offices. That is just a small variety of areas where technical documentation can be found.

Basically, if there is a need for any form of technical communication then you will find that technical writing will play some part in delivering the information to the intended audience. Technical writing is the means of communicating any form of technology to both technical and non technical audiences.

Let’s say a domestic appliance manufacturer has a new dishwasher they are about to bring to the market. That dishwasher will need some form of user guide to explain how to use it. That is where technical writing comes in to the equation. A technical writer or technical author (as some prefer to be known) will determine what the intended audience will need to understand how to use the dishwasher. The technical writer will then develop the user guide based on their research of the intended audience’s needs. That is just an example of one of many applications where technical writing can be used to communicate technical information.

Technical writing is an excellent career for anybody that has the necessary qualifications and technical knowledge for the specific products or services. To be able to successfully write technical documentation you will not only need to possess good writing and grammar skills but also some technical knowledge of the products or services so that you can write intelligently about the subject.

Most employers tend to look for technical writers who have at least some form of academic qualification in the discipline that they want the technical writer to write about.

More often than not you tend to find that if as a technical writer you at least have knowledge and technical understanding of the technology field you are interested in then you can forge a great career in technical writing for yourself.

Technical writing can involve producing various types of documents for a single product. These documents can vary from a user guide, technical specification, operating manual, maintenance manual, troubleshooting guide or even all of the mentioned.

You do not have to understand the subject of the technical documents because technical writing requires that you be able to decipher and use the terms that arise in the everyday usage of the products or services with your industry.

Although technical writing does not require an intimate knowledge of every function of every item you write about, it does mean that you will need to have some experience in the field you are writing about.

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