According to the forecast, we expect an 11% demand growth of the technical writing profession by 2026. "Why is it so popular?", - you might ask. One of the reasons is that it is extremely difficult to find a person who has good writing skills and some technical background. Usually, it is one or the other. A technical writer is a missing link between those who understand how something works or needs to be done and those who do not. The mission is to translate the language overloaded with confusing technical terminology to an easy-to-understand one.
As you might have guessed, your tasks will include dealing with technical documentation. It may include technical reports, user interface texts, press releases, guides, manuals, executive summaries, product descriptions, etc. Although it may seem extremely difficult to learn how to write each of these documents, all you need are good samples/templates.
Once you get a clear idea of what a document should look like and what information to consist of, it will be easier to write similar ones over and over again. One of the biggest benefits of this work is the possibility to become a lifelong learner. With every new piece of content you create, you get to learn something new. You will explore different areas of knowledge and different products.
Also, you should understand the algorithm of writing these documents. When you know what is the next step, you can get the estimated amount of time you will have to spend on it. It may look like this:
Have a clear understanding of who is that person you are writing for and what terminology to use. Sometimes you will have to give the definitions of the specific terms used in a particular area, and sometimes it will be excessive. After you've identified the needs, it will be clear what the main message of your content should be.
It is pretty much self-explanatory. You need to understand what kind of information you need and where to get it.
To do so, you will have to communicate with other departments, make research, and use other sources. It is a big plus if you have good interpersonal skills. At this point, you should start writing.
Review the content you have and test it by letting colleagues read it. If your task is to write a comprehensive manual for a new product, let someone without any technical background have their say. Rewrite the parts that are confusing and improve the quality of the content.
Submit the final polished version and wait for feedback. If the document you've created causes questions and does not provide the readers with answers, you will definitely get a negative feedback. And if you've done a great job at explaining something complex in an easy comprehensive way, wait for a praise to come.
Just like any other profession, this one has a set of guidelines that an experienced writer should follow. People will always be expecting to get specific results from every piece of content you create. Therefore, it is important to know what techniques to use and what styles to avoid. If you are considering the option of mastering this job, here are some tips on improving your skills.
Clarity. The main goal of a technical writer is to explain something that is hard to understand to a reader. That is why you should use active voice and avoid using passive voice. It will be easier for a reader to grasp the main idea if it's clear who did what and when. Do not over-complicate something without a good reason for it.
Double meaning. The word choice is a crucial point when it comes to the explanation of complex terms and expressions. Be careful and avoid the words that can be misleading for a reader. If a word you choose has several meanings and they can be confusing, look for another one. Also, make sure you prove a reader with all kinds of details. For instance, if you want them to push a red button, check if there is only one red button and it is impossible to confuse it with another one.
Put yourself in their shoes. Imagine that you are that person who has to use a manual or instruction you are writing. What would be the sequence of the steps you'd take? What would the person with no background in the topic like to know? Finding the answers to these questions is the main goal.
Avoid excessive wordiness. Again, it is important to make your text as easy to understand as possible. Technical documents are not the best place to demonstrate your knowledge of numerous adjectives and adverbs. If you can combine two sentences in one and make it short, do it.
No place for jargon. When writing an instruction, manual or anything alike, ask yourself if every reader would be able to understand it. If you have been exploring a specific topic for a long time and know all the particular terms used in the area, avoid using them. Most probably, your audience is not familiar with the jargon you use in the office.
Learn how to visualize. You may be asked to provide an explanatory graph or something similar along with content. If you master this skill, your working process will reach a whole new level. Additionally, you have to learn how to present your writing. Break the text into small paragraphs when possible to make it clearer.
Turn on a grammar nazi in you. Grammar mistakes and typos can spoil everything. No matter how good at grammar rules you can be, it is better to proofread your writing using a special app or tool designed for these reasons. Grammarly is one of such tools and will help you a lot.
One of the obvious questions you may have after learning about this profession if how can you differentiate yourself from other experts? What unique features you as a technical writer should have? A good tip is to find a specific niche and become a real expert.
If you are interested in the development of new apps and writing the documentation connected to this topic, learn all the details in its regards. You will demonstrate an impressive portfolio to an employer that is going to show how focused you are. Choose any technical writing niche or create a new one. It's up to you.
Additionally, if you want to increase the value of your expertise, attend various online and off-line courses on technical writing. There is always something new you can learn. At the beginning of your career, you can try working with different topics to find the one that is the most exciting for you.