The gamut of writing and writer roles is expanding rapidly. In this blog, we will understand technical writing, what does a technical writer do and what skills does one need to become a technical writing. We will also briefly glance at the differences between technical writers and UX writers. To learn more about UX writing, you can refer to our previous blog.
Technical Writing is basically explaining how anything works. Technical writing simplifies complex rules, instructions, and techniques for users and consumers. Traditional forms of technical writing include instruction manuals, guides, user guides, support documentation, or instructions that come with electronic devices and software. Today, technical writing includes chatbots, live chat, FAQs, video tutorials, Youtube series, white paper, case studies, reports, and press releases.
Technical Writing exists in several industries such as IT, tech, education, software, communications, health, biotech, medical, energy, construction, and manufacturing.
A technical writer should simplify the instructions for consumers, since poorly communicated instructions or complicated manuals can damage brand reputation and cause frustration among consumers. A great example of simple technical writing is Dyson. They have videos without music or excessive text, simple visuals of models using the products. It is also an example of how technical writing does not necessarily be about writing, but about making the products and services accessible.
Now, we have already established the parameters of technical writing, let’s define UX writing. UX (User Experience) writing is microcopy for apps, websites, software, digital products and services. Everything from product pages, emails, buttons, notifications, and content style guides.
Technical Writing Vs UX Writing
There is a certain amount of overlap and blurring of the lines between technical writing and UX writing. The traditional technical writing has moved on from just instructions and manuals to digital products and services. Designers and companies are focused on ensuring a seamless consumer experience and support documentation is often not needed. Unless you experience a problem, you never really read the user instructions or guides for digital products such as Facebook, Tinder, Spotify. Here, UX writers will be responsible for technical writing and support.
UX writers have to work with content, copy on digital platforms. They research, create, and test user flows and experiences. Technical writers on the other hand, write/create text heavy documentation and material.
The common goals of UX writers and technical writers are-
- Simplifying instructions
- Helping users complete a task
- Intimate knowledge of context, content, style, and format
- Create/write content style guides for the team
TECHNICAL WRITING SKILLS
- Writing- This is a given. Technical writers need to have excellent writing skills. Writing, editing, revising, proofreading, and reviewing are some skills you will need to possess.
- Accuracy- Factual accuracy is crucial for technical writers. You need to write exact specifications, amounts, and information so consumers, hence technical writers should be accurate, precise, and factual.
- Research-Expect to do a lot of intensive research or spend a portion of your time to do research. Research involves reading up on subject matter, surveys, interviews, online searches. Technical writers have to find, arrange, analyse data, and review information.
- Design- Graphic elements such as images, charts, tables, data, and videos are handy tools to help visualise technical writing. Technical writers have to design documents in a sleek, elegant way that makes it easy for consumers to access information.
- Digital Know How- Writers should know how to use tools such as Microsoft Office, Grammarly, Photoshop, Adobe Framemaker, Oxygen XML editor, or ClickHelp. You can also use single source publishing tools. These tools allow you to reuse content across different formats, from Word to PDF to HTML and XML. You can work in only one file, instead of having to keep track of multiple files.
- Communication- Technical writers are part of a bigger team of engineers, developers, and other stakeholders. They should be able to communicate clearly and understand how to repackage jargon or technical terms for audiences and consumers.
So, what kind of degree or qualifications do you need to become a technical writer? It honestly depends on the role and the company. Most roles will specify having a bachelor’s degree or equivalent knowledge in technical subjects such as engineering, computer science, data analysis, etc. While some roles will accept qualifications in English, communications, journalism, or writing.
You can also turn your lack of technical knowledge to your advantage if you are an English major or writer. This will mean doing serious research, studying regularly about technical topics, and writing manuals for practice.
TECHNICAL WRITING DOCUMENTATION
Knowing the documents technical writers create can allow a fresh perspective and give you a chance to practice before starting on a new project or role.
- Manuals- Instruction manuals, product manuals, or assembly guides are some of the basic and common forms of technical writing. Poor instruction manuals or shoddy assembly guides can even cause injury or damage to property. Technical writers have to remember that these manuals should include images, visuals, simple instructions (in multiple languages), and test various versions with focus groups to see which resonates better. Instruction or product manuals should also act as a buffer and reduce angry calls to customer service or poor reviews.
- User guides-User help guides or support documentation should be available for all steps of the product use or service. Help files are based online and should be searchable by topic, keyword, or phrase. They should be ideal for troubleshooting.
- FAQs- They are a common element in several websites, shops, and products. Good technical writers should make FAQs simple, easy, and straight forward. You can complement them with live chat, customer chatbot, or support staff.
- Technical Reports- Technical writers compile data, gather information from research, format the document, and create a technical report for external and internal stakeholders.
- White Papers-Many companies expect technical writers to write white papers. White Papers have to explain a process and lead to a desired result.
Now that you know the basics of technical writing, you can see if it is a potential career pathway for you or use this to improve your technical writing techniques.
Drop a comment or message if you like this post!