They may be responsible for creating content that will only be viewed on a hand-held device; much of their work will never be published in a printed booklet like technical documentation of the past.
In addition to solid research, copywriting , language, writing, and revision skills, a technical writer may have skills in:. A technical writer may apply their skills in the production of non-technical content, for example, writing high-level consumer information.
Usually, a technical writer is not a subject matter expert SME , but interviews SMEs and conducts the research necessary to write and compile technically accurate content. Technical writers complete both primary and secondary research to fully understand the topic. A proficient technical writer has the ability to create, assimilate, and convey technical material in a concise and effective manner. They may specialize in a particular area but must have a good understanding of the products they describe.
Technical writers gather information from many sources. Their information sources are usually scattered throughout an organization, which can range from developers to marketing departments.
According to Markel  , good technical documents are measured by eight characteristics: To create effective technical documentation, the writer must analyze three elements that comprise the rhetorical situation of a particular project: Technical writers strive to simplify complex concepts or processes to maximize reader comprehension.
The final goal of a particular document is to help readers find what they need, understand what they find, and use what they understand appropriately. An audience analysis at the outset of a document project helps define what an audience for a particular document requires. When analyzing an audience the technical writer typically asks: Accurate audience analysis provides a set of guidelines that shape document content, design and presentation online help system, interactive website, manual, etc.
A technical writer analyzes the purpose or function of a communication to understand what a document must accomplish. Context is the physical and temporal circumstances in which readers use communication—for example: This knowledge significantly influences how the writer formats the communication.
For example, if the document is a quick troubleshooting guide to the controls on a small watercraft, the writer may have the pages laminated to increase usable life. Once the above information has been gathered, the document is designed for optimal readability and usability.
According to one expert, technical writers use six design strategies to plan and create technical communication: Technical writers can have various job titles, including technical communicator, information developer , technical content developer or technical documentation specialist.
In the United Kingdom and some other countries, a technical writer is often called a technical author or knowledge author. Technical writers normally possess a mixture of technical and writing abilities. They typically have a degree or certification in a technical field, but may have one in journalism, business, or other fields. Many technical writers switch from another field, such as journalism—or a technical field such as engineering or science, often after learning important additional skills through technical communications classes.
To create a technical document, a technical writer must understand the subject, purpose, and audience. They gather information by studying existing material, interviewing SMEs, and often actually using the product.
They study the audience to learn their needs and technical understanding level. The document development life cycle typically consists of six phases This changes organization to organization, how they are following. Well-written technical documents usually follow formal standards or guidelines. Technical documentation comes in many styles and formats, depending on the medium and subject area. Printed and online documentation may differ in various ways, but still adhere to largely identical guidelines for prose, information structure, and layout.
Usually, technical writers follow formatting conventions described in a standard style guide. Many companies have internal corporate style guides that cover specific corporate issues such as logo use, branding, and other aspects of corporate style. Engineering projects, particularly defense or aerospace related projects, often follow national and international documentation standards—such as ATA for civil aircraft or SD for civil and defense platforms.
Technical writers often work as part of a writing or project development team. Typically, the writer finishes a draft and passes it to one or more SMEs who conduct a technical review to verify accuracy and completeness. Another writer or editor may perform an editorial review that checks conformance to styles, grammar, and readability.
This person may request for clarification or make suggestions. In some cases the writer or others test the document on audience members to make usability improvements. A final production typically follows an inspection checklist to ensure the quality and uniformity of the published product. There is no single standard career path for technical writers, but they may move into project management over other writers.
A writer may advance to a senior technical writer position, handling complex projects or a small team of writers and editors. In larger groups, a documentation manager might handle multiple projects and teams. Technical writers may also gain expertise in a particular technical domain and branch into related forms, such as software quality analysis or business analysis.
A technical writer who becomes a subject matter expert in a field may transition from technical writing to work in that field. Applying their knowledge of the user of the product, technical writers may serve as part of a team conducting usability studies to help improve the design of a product that is in the prototype stage. Technical writers may conduct research on their topics through personal observation, library and Internet research, and discussions with technical specialists.
Technical writers are also responsible for managing the consistency of technical content and its use across business departments including product development, manufacturing, marketing, and customer relations. Increasingly, technical information is being delivered online and through social media. Technical writers are using the interactive technologies of the Web and social media to blend text, graphics, multidimensional images, sound, and video. Technical writers held about 52, jobs in The largest employers of technical writers were as follows:.
Most technical writers work in offices. They routinely work with engineers and other technology experts to manage the flow of information throughout an organization. Although most technical writers are employed directly by the companies that use their services, some work on a freelance basis and are paid per assignment.
Either they are self-employed, or they work for a technical consulting firm and are given specific short-term or recurring assignments, such as writing about a new product or coordinating the work and communication among different offices to keep a project on track. Technical writing jobs are usually concentrated in locations, such as California and Texas, with a multitude of information technology or scientific and technical research companies.
Technical writers may be expected to work evenings and weekends to coordinate with those in other time zones or to meet deadlines. Most work full time. Many technical writing jobs require both a degree and knowledge in a specialized field, such as engineering, computer science, or medicine. Web design experience also is helpful because of the growing use of online technical documentation. Some technical writers begin their careers as specialists or research assistants in a technical field.
They eventually develop technical communication skills and assume primary responsibilities for technical writing. In small firms, entry-level technical writers may work on projects right away; in larger companies with more standard procedures, beginners may observe experienced technical writers and interact with specialists before being assigned projects.
Many technical writers need short-term on-the-job training to adapt to a different style of writing. Some associations, including the Society for Technical Communication , offer certification for technical writers. In addition, the American Medical Writers Association offers extensive continuing education programs and certificates in medical writing.
These certificates are available to professionals in the medical and allied scientific communication fields. Although not mandatory, certification can demonstrate competence and professionalism, making candidates more attractive to employers.
Prospects for advancement generally include working on more complex projects and leading or training junior staff. Technical writers must be able to take complex, technical information and simplify it for colleagues and consumers who have nontechnical backgrounds.
Technical writers create detailed instructions for others to follow. As a result, they must be detailed and precise at every step so that the instructions can be useful. Technical writers must be able to think about a procedure or product in the way a person without technical experience would think about it. Technical writers must be able to work well with others.
They are almost always part of a team: Technical writers must be able to understand highly complex information. Many technical writers need a background in engineering or computer science in order to do this. Technical communicators must have excellent writing skills to be able to explain technical information clearly.
All Occupations includes all occupations in the U. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. In May , the median annual wages for technical writers in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program. The continuing expansion of scientific and technical products and growth in Web-based product support will drive employment demand for technical writers.
Growth and change in the high-technology and electronics industries will result in a greater need for those who can write instruction manuals and communicate information clearly to users.
Professional, scientific, and technical services firms are expected to continue to grow rapidly and should be a good source of new jobs even as the occupation finds acceptance in a broader range of industries. The growing reliance on technologically sophisticated products in the home and the workplace and the increasing complexity of medical and scientific information that consumers demand will create many new job opportunities for technical writers.
In addition, the need to replace workers who retire over the coming decade will result in some job openings. However, there will be competition among freelance technical writers. The Occupational Employment Statistics OES program produces employment and wage estimates annually for over occupations.
These estimates are available for the nation as a whole, for individual states, and for metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas.
The link s below go to OES data maps for employment and wages by state and area. All state projections data are available at www. Information on this site allows projected employment growth for an occupation to be compared among states or to be compared within one state. CareerOneStop includes hundreds of occupational profiles with data available by state and metro area. There are links in the left-hand side menu to compare occupational employment by state and occupational wages by local area or metro area.
There is also a salary info tool to search for wages by zip code. This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of technical writers. Computer hardware engineers research, design, develop, and test computer systems and components such as processors, circuit boards, memory devices, networks, and routers.
Computer programmers write and test code that allows computer applications and software programs to function properly. They turn the program designs created by software developers and engineers into instructions that a computer can follow.
Interpreters and translators convert information from one language into another language. Interpreters work in spoken or sign language; translators work in written language. Public relations managers plan and direct the creation of material that will maintain or enhance the public image of their employer or client.
Fundraising managers coordinate campaigns that bring in donations for their organization. Public relations specialists create and maintain a favorable public image for the organization they represent. They craft media releases and develop social media programs to shape public perception of their organization and to increase awareness of its work and goals.
Technical writers, also called technical communicators, prepare instruction manuals, how-to guides, journal articles, and other supporting documents to communicate complex and technical information more easily. They also develop, gather, and disseminate technical information through an organization’s communications clusteringf.tk-level education: Bachelor's degree.
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