Writing is a skill that can take you far in the world of business, whether you’re writing blog posts, marketing content, or even a book. But what if you’re more technically inclined than you are a wordsmith?
Can you still make it as a writer in such an arena? The answer is absolute, at least based on some experts’ opinions.
As a tech writer, I’m often asked, “What does a tech writer do?” While this is a really broad question, it’s a great place to start. Let me first paint the broader picture of what the role entails; then, we can look at real-world examples.
The short answer to this question is that a tech writer is someone who writes about technology. But there’s more to it than that. What does a tech writer really do? Here’s a quick explanation.
Tech writers write documentation, tutorials, and glossaries on technical topics. Simply put, they explain technical topics that are hard to understand in a way that other people can easily comprehend.
The technology field is growing at a rapid pace, so tech writers have plenty of opportunities available to them.
Tech writers are often thought of as the unsung heroes of the tech world. If you’ve used or read about new technology, you’ve come across a tech writer’s work at some point. This article tells you everything you need to know about tech writers and their role in the tech world.
So, who are tech writers?
A technical writer is a professional information communicator who transfers information to other parties through any medium.
Technical writers research and create information through a variety of delivery mediums (electronic, printed, audiovisual, and even touch).
Technical writers spend their days researching, writing, reviewing, and editing technical documentation. They work with technical staff to make complex information easier to understand.
This documentation includes online help systems, manuals (print or electronic), procedural documents, guidelines, white papers, project/product specifications, requirements documents, training materials, and other types of documentation for users of products or services.
What technical writing entails
- Procedural documentation. The best example of this is instructions that come with a product. The instructions are written by a technical writer and explain how to operate the product to the user.
- Reference documentation. This is more in-depth information about the product, and it includes handbooks, online help, FAQs, and so on. Sometimes it is included as part of the procedural documentation; for instance, many procedures will include links to reference material that explains specific terms or concepts used in the procedure.
- Tutorials. This type of document teaches users how to accomplish tasks using the product. It is similar to procedural documentation because it uses step-by-step instructions; however, it may be more general than procedural documentation and not address specific products or applications.
- Conceptual documentation. This is not about a product or application, but explains basic concepts in a particular field (e.g., computer networking).
- Marketing materials. Technical writers write these documents to describe and promote products and services offered by their companies (or their clients’ companies). Marketing documents include brochures, data sheets, and presentations.
Areas of expertise?
As I see it, there are four main areas of work for a technical writer:
Helping users to understand how to use your product by providing written guidance (instructions, how-to guides, feature overviews)
- User education
Helping developers or other users understand how your product works through creating tutorials and training materials
- Internal communications
Make sure that all the teams within your company get access to the information they need to do their jobs
- External marketing
Creating content that helps prospective clients better understand how your product might help them
The practice of technical communication involves writing, editing, layout and design, and the use of multimedia. Of course, not all tech writers do all of those things. Very few tech writers do everything.
As a result of their variety of skills, tech writers can be found in almost any industry or profession where technical information needs to be communicated to an audience – from consumer products to aerospace and defense.
Tech writers work for corporations, government agencies, non-profit organizations, and even individuals or small companies that need documentation for their products. The best part about being a technical writer? You can do it from almost anywhere!
Why tech writers do what they do
Tech writers are more than just people who make sure documentation exists. A tech writer is a partner in creating software, bridging the gap between developer and user, between marketing and sales, between product and customer.
As with many aspects of the tech industry, the role of a tech writer is constantly changing to meet new demands.
The primary goal of good technical writing is to explain the features of a product or service to users. This often involves documenting the functionality of a system, explaining how it works, and guiding readers through how they can use it.
People often confuse technical communication with other types of writing, such as journalism or marketing. While there are some similarities between these types of writing, there is one big difference: tech writing is focused on helping people use a product. In contrast, other types of writing may be more focused on persuading people to buy it.
Without an easy-to-understand and accurate manual, the user (or customer) of a product might as well not have the product at all.
According to Joan Young, a professional essay writer from Advanced Writers, a tech writer’s role is to take the technical jargon and make it understandable to the layman.
Tech Writers are also responsible for writing documentation, articles, white papers, and other types of content that helps users understand how a product works.
The more simplified answer is that tech writers can help a company in many ways. These include:
- Creating guides for customers and employees
- Creating marketing content such as white papers and blog posts
- Drafting emails and other sales correspondence
- Writing scripts for training videos or podcasts