10 Ways to Master Your Technical Writing Skills

A technical writer is often referred to with different names within and outside the IT industry. Some companies refer to them as Technical Communicator, Information Developer, Data Development Engineer, and Technical Documentation Specialist. In essence they are writers that simplify complex technical information to simple and understandable sentences that their particular audiences may comprehend. In other words they make complex technology accessible to the common man. On the other hand to master technical writing, one needs to learn and understand the topic, audience and basics of solid non-fictional writing. Following are the top 10 tips for technical writers to master technical writing.

1. Simplify:
One can never emphasis enough the importance of simplifying in technical writing. The main purpose of technical language is to make information accessible to people that do not have command over technology. Therefore, it becomes of prime importance that the language is simple and easy to understand. Also, that the information is communicated in short sentences.

2. Knowledge of audience:
This again cannot be emphasized enough. Though the technical writer’s job is to make information simple, it is very important that the user who uses the product does not get talked down to. Meaning, if the product is for the use of technically sound professionals the details in the documentation must also suit their level of understanding of the technology in the product and its operation.

3. Strength over language:
A command over the language is very important for technical writers. Since their profession involves extensive writing, they must have the ability to simplify complex behaviors using simple and grammatically correct sentences.

4. Eye for detail:
A technical writer must be critical of his/her writing and must ensure that errors are minimal and details are not missed. Additionally, in many companies a technical writer is also expected to review documents written by other writers, developers, and testers. In such scenarios, wearing a editor’s hat, the technical writer must be able to spot errors as easily as she/he writes.

5. Communication:
An important part of a technical writer’s job is to collect the relevant information on the product. This means that the technical writer must communicate with developers, testers, and program managers to collect their information. Therefore, an important quality for technical writers is their communication skills. Additionally, they may also have to provide inputs on the product from a usability perspective. While providing criticism or enhancement suggestions to people, technical writers must be cautious to provide feedback in a positive way. This also is of prime importance.

6. Time management:
In many companies, technical writing is not yet included in the product development life cycle (technical writers’ hope that this will soon change with changing times). However, the deliverables in terms of product documentation development runs parallel to product development. This means that though documentation is not included in the process, the time available to create the document remains the same. This means that the technical writers must manage the time available to create, review, and validate their content.

7. Assertive:
As mentioned in the time management section, since in some companies the process of product development. Therefore, technical writers may sometimes be faced with the situation where enough information doesn’t reach them at appropriate times. In such scenarios it is important for a technical writer to be assertive and ensure that the information is provided within the stipulated deadline.

8. Process driven:
Technical writing is a fairly new profession. This means that many of the process in this industry have not yet accommodated technical writing processes into their product building mechanism. This is why the technical writer must research and assert a process within the organization to ensure that technical writers are included in the process and reviews and deadlines are processed to ensure that documentation development is conducted smoothly.

9. Usability focus:
A technical writer is in some ways the midpoint between a product and its users. In the sense that they see and interpret the product in the same way as the end user. It is therefore vital that they have a sense of how usable a product it and provide feedback from time to time on the products to developers and testers.

10. Adaptability and flexibility:
As mentioned technical writing is a developing profession that has undergone a lot of change, since it first surfaced in the late 90’s. Therefore, a technical writer must be adaptable to change and be flexible enough to accept the change in the profession in particular and the industry as a whole. Additionally, the changes to products are often done towards the end of the development and technical writers should keep at stead with the changes and the dynamics of product change.