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Let’s Get Technical – Technical Writing 101

A Technical WHAT?!

When you think of the word “writer” you probably imagine somebody who writes books or writes articles for a newspaper or magazine. Well, you are right but being a writer goes far beyond the confines of books and magazines. Today, we’d like to give you some insight into a form of writing that most people have no idea 1) even exists or 2) what it is. Welcome to the realm of the TECHNICAL WRITER!

Just because it has the word “technical” in the description, you might automatically assume that a technical writer is solely concerned with technology and everything affiliated with it. Well, in actuality, a technical writer is someone who designs, creates, and authors technical documentation for a wide variety of applications. A technical writer might be commissioned to write such thins as a user manual on how to install the latest version of Windows on your computer, how to program a new remote control for a television, or even how to program radio stations on a new car radio.

According to Wikipedia’s definition of a technical writer: A technical writer (also called a technical communicator) is a professional writer who designs, writes, creates, maintains, and updates technical documentation—including online help, user guides, white papers, design specifications, system manuals, and other documents. Engineers, scientists, and other professionals may also produce technical writing, usually handing their work to a professional technical writer for proofreading, editing, and formatting. A technical writer produces technical documentation for technical, business, and consumer audiences.

Technical Writing is a very involved process that starts with gathering as much information about a new product or an existing product. Usually, a technical writer will conduct interviews with SME’s (Subject matter experts) to obtain all the pertinent information for their assignment. An SME might be an engineer, scientist, product development team, etc., etc. From here, the technical writer will then create the documentation needed as according to their guidelines. Most technical writers follow a strict publication format and will create important factors including table of contents, an appendix, glossaries, chapters, etc. to make navigating the document easier. Tech writers also must take into account environmental factors when creating their documents. For example, if a writer is creating a help document for a computer business that works in a relatively low light, cubicle environment, then they must adjust certain font types, colors, and sizes to accommodate the surroundings.

A technical writer is a valuable asset to many companies and can prove to be a major help in creating effective documents. An average technical writer’s salaries can range up to $60,000 a year and even higher for Senior level technical writers. So, the next time you open the box for a new computer or need online help to solve a software issue, remember that someone, somewhere went through an entire process to give you that documented information!

For more information about Technical Writing be sure to check out STC.org (Society for Technical Communicators)

Happy Writing!

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