What Does A Technical Writer Do?
A technical writer is tasked with preparing technical documentation, from software to industrial machinery to engineering specifications for various projects. Unlike creative writing which focuses on an ingenious rendition of a story through the use of colorful words and phrases, technical writers see to it that the technical documentation they produce are clear, direct and understandable by the audience that will read it.
From instructional manuals to journal articles to white papers, technical writers first determine who the target audience is going to be for the technical documentation they will produce. If they are writing about a physical product, they will first look at samples of it and understand how it works. They will also talk with the designers of the product in order to gain a deeper understanding of its inner workings before proceeding to write down the manual or paper.
Although there will always be technical jargon involved in writing a technical document depending on the industry it is being crafted for, technical writers still aim for clarity in their work. For example, if they are writing a how-to manual for a particular gadget to guide consumers in using a product, they will try to find ways to express the instructions in such a manner that even those who have zero knowledge about the product will still be able to follow. The same goes for technical documentation written for software that is still in its testing phase and meant for professionals coming from different backgrounds. Technical writers see to it that even if the target users come from various industries, they will still be able to understand the manual.
The ability to conduct thorough research is a trait that all technical writers possess. They need to have the patience to scour various books and online sources as well as talk with specialists about the particular product that they will be writing about. They are also keen observers. These traits come in handy especially when they are tasked to evaluate a product that is still undergoing development and is still in its prototype stage. Through their research and observations, they are able to recommend changes that would improve the prototype before it will be released to the market.
Technical writers don’t just rely on the written word to get their message across. In this day and age when interactive technologies have become increasingly common, they have to learn new skills to keep abreast with the latest trends. An increasing number of technical writers have become adept at taking pictures, making drawings and diagrams and incorporating video and animation into technical documentation in order to enhance understanding about a particular product. This is especially true for manuals instructing users on how to assemble a particular product.
The Internet has also widened the avenue where technical writers can produce their work. They aren’t just limited to coming up with documentation to be printed on paper but are also able to publish them online. In fact, companies who do business online or software firms whose programs are available as downloads don’t anymore produce physical documentation. Technical writers put FAQs or frequently asked questions and other resources on their websites for users to read any time as they wish. If the company still wants to produce content across various platforms, it is the job of the technical writer to ensure that all content are standardized.
As manufacturers continue to improve a product and come up with upgrades to existing ones, technical writers have to revise their content and add in the new features of the latest models. If the upgrades are relatively minor then the writer may not need to overhaul previous documentation but simply add to it. If the newest model has more add-ons and benefits, they may have to write an entirely new document.
Technical writers need to have a background of the field where they will be producing technical documentation in. For instance, those who will be writing about computers and technology need to have an in-depth knowledge of the computer industry while those who will be producing documentation for medicines need to have a solid experience in pharmacology and the medical industry. But no matter what industry they write for, it’s important for them to have a strong technical command of the English language so that they can produce grammatically correct documents.