Archive for 'technical communications'

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.

Is Technical Communications a Good Career Option?

A career in technical communications involves researching and creating information about a specific service or product. The information is then relayed to the intended audience via several different media sources. The media sources that technical communicators use include paper, video and the Internet.

The types of information that technical communicators produce include, technical manuals, specifications online help, data sheets, user guides, procedures manuals, technical reports, etc.

The essence of good technical communication is to provide understandable information that will not only promote the service or product but that it can be easily understood by the intended audience. It is paramount that the technical communicator (i.e. technical writer) provides accurate information, on time and within budget to the end user.

It is essential that the technical communicator has specific qualities to help in this process.

Essential Qualities of Technical Communicators

technical communicationA technical communicator must have, analytical, logical and be very creative in their specific field of technical communication. They must have the potential to analyse and understand the technical terminology of the specific field they are in. This gives them the ability to implement the specific creativity needed to communicate the desired information.

They should also have a good command of the language they are creating their information in so that they can easily implement their terms that the end user can easily understand.

As new communications technology appears for the technical communicator to use then they must be aware of these changes even if it means having to retrain to keep ahead of the changes. The changes to their communications tools and media will only be good for both the technical communicator and the end user.

A good technical communicator will not only be able to produce good quality information they also must be able to integrate into their working environment and be able to take on any difficult assignments they are given with the minimal amount of stress.

They must be sure that the work they have been given is not beyond their capabilities because the consequence of producing information that is incorrect can be very embarrassing for the technical communicator and the company they are working for.

Job Opportunities for Technical Communicators

Due to the technology available today technical communications has become one of biggest growth areas for any looking for a career. There are a lot of varied areas within business and technology where the demand for technical communicators is very high. The following list gives some of the careers available:

  • Technical writer
  • Technical editor
  • Technical illustrator
  • User Interface designer
  • Information architect
  • Technical translator
  • Technical trainer
  • API writer
  • Usability expert
  • User experience designers
  • Graphics designers, etc

If you have the correct educational background along with some practical exposure in the field you are interested in then you can expect to have a very good career in technical communications.

What Is Proofreading and Editing?

In any form of technical communication it is clear and unambiguous content that is the key. The first impression is all important when the completed documentation is presented to the intended audience. For this to be successful the documentation will need proofreading or editing to ensure that the end user fully understands the written word.

Do you have to polish your writing skills, improve any of your presentations, proofread or edit any of the documentation you have written? You will find a lot of people which is why proofreading and editing has become an integral part of technical communications.

proofreadingAny errors in your content will be an embarrassment. You have to ensure that your written words are accurate and work for you. Just making one mistake could give a completely different interpretation of what you wrote. This is why a proofreader is needed to pick out the errors in the documentation and the editor will ensure the style stays consistent.

A proofreader or editor will give your content an independent review which you as the technical writer will find it impossible to achieve impartially.

Proofreading is how you address punctuation, spelling, typographic or grammatical errors in your content. It is very easy to overlook any mistakes and some errors can be an embarrassment if the document is not checked before publication.

Whereas, editing addresses the overall style of the documentation. Within all writing professions editing takes care of the presentation, in both the content and formatting a thorough editing will ensure an overall consistency of both the style and readability of the document.

In today’s world of instant communication it is very important to use the services of a professional proofreader or editor because one badly incorrectly placed or misspelt word or sentence will give a very different impression to your reader than what you were trying to portray.

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.

Technical Communication

This website has been created to keep anybody that is interested in Technical Communications up-to-date with what I believe to be most relevant topics a Technical Writer or Technical Author (as some prefer to be known as) needs to be aware of.

Technical communication refers to any kind of technical documentation whether it is user guides, maintenance/operating manuals, technical specifications, style guides, diagrams, illustrations, reference guides, on-screen help, interface text, or any other form of content that communicates technical principles and concepts in an easy-to-understand way.

It is difficult to determine one single definition of Technical Communications because it extends into so many different areas of technology and media presentation. It also brings together different forms of creativity, writing, artwork, video and numerous other ways of displaying the information.

technical communicationBasically, you can think of it as telling the intended audience how to do things, and relying on the communication method to manage the process and any changes that are necessary. The information is communicated via numerous tools that are available to the technical writer, and the great thing about it all is that as a technical writer you are actually getting paid to write.

To be a good technical communicator you have to be creative because you have to take into account the different audiences that are going to use your information. Also you must have an appreciation of the different types of media you will use to get your message across. You have to convey your information in a way that will that will not only inform and engage your intended audience but will make it easier for them to understand.

Commerce, science and technology play a big part in the everyday principles of technical communication. Each of these major areas of industry has a need for technical communicators. In fact there are many areas within these businesses where technical writers play a major role in developing not only the technical documentation for these organisations but also their business documentation and development plans as well.

It is very important that the technical communicator understands the processes and procedures that the company he is working for. It is no good for the company’s image if the person who is writing their documentation doesn’t understand what the company’s products or processes are. That is why the majority of majority of these companies require that the technical communicator has some for qualifications in the discipline that whey will be writing about.

History of Technical Communications

There are different schools of thought as to the origin of technical communications. Some say it started as far back as Ancient Greece, the Renaissance period or even the mid 20th Century. However, there was a noticeable increase towards use of technical documentation by certain military, aerospace and electronics companies following the First World War.

What is more qualified than the theory in the previous paragraph is that in 1953 in the United States two organisations (the Society of Technical Writers, and the Association of Technical Writers and Editors) were formed to improve the quality and practice of technical communication. In 1957 these two organisations merged to form the Society of Technical Writers and Editors, a predecessor of the current Society for Technical Communication (STC).

Whilst, in the United Kingdom the amalgamation of three existing associations (the Presentation of Technical Information Group, the Technical Publications Association and the Institute of Technical Publicity and Publications) created the Institute of Scientific and Technical Communicators (ISTC).

What do Technical Communicators do?

The majority of people believe that technical communicators are just writers that create technical manuals (i.e. maintenance manuals, user guides etc,). Today, that theory is so far from reality because times have changed dramatically, and I have to say, for the better! Today’s technical communicator creates their information for a wide range of businesses, products, processes by using a wide range of media applications.

technical communicatorDepending on the industry that a technical communicator is working in will determine what type of information that will produce. It will not just be technical manuals, it could be business reports, white papers, style guides, content management intranets, websites, software programs and they might also be involved in the testing procedures for the company’s products or software.

The types of jobs available within the technical communications industry are documentation manager, technical writer, online help developer, web creator/designer, information developer, etc.

Technical communicators are in high demand and can be found working in a wide variety of commercial and engineering establishments. You tend to find that certain geographical areas tend to specialise in particular areas. Technical communicators can be found working for financial and insurance institutions, engineering companies, telecommunications, pharmaceutical companies, local and national government departments, defence organisations, etc.

Technical communication is classed as a professional task that allows businesses the opportunity to either employ skilled personnel, or outsource their needs to the relevant technical communication companies.

The process of creating information products or processes in technical communication begins with technical communicator determining who the eventual audience will be and clearly identifying the information they need. The next step is for the technical communicator to research the amount of content needed and to build a structured framework for the information.

The way most technical documentation is created can be categorised under the heading of the ‘Writing Process’. This has been a central focus of writing theory since the early 1970s, and many ways has been significantly applied to producing technical communications.

For a lot of employees technical communication is a very important part of their everyday working life. Most engineers, software developers, web designers, flight engineers and even pilots come into contact with technical communications in one form or another.

Technical communications allows the relevant information to be supplied in a concise manner and is very clear in its meaning if done correctly.