An Expert Technical Writer possesses the quality of breaking down complex details into simple pieces of information, which readers can easily grasp. In this piece, we will talk about the 11 Ways to Become an Expert Technical Writer, including an interesting conversation with someone experienced in this field.
There are many kinds of writers, from Story Writers to Technical Writers. While all have their own job descriptions, Technical Writers master the art of stating facts and not giving an opinion on something. This is for the simple reason that technical writing brings solutions and simplicity to things.
Your elaboration of difficult concepts can help the organisations you work for, since you can break everything down into simpler pieces of writing.
Let’s take a look at the things we will discuss in this piece.
Table of contents
- What is Technical Writing?
- Technical Writing Use of Language
- Technical Writer Job Description
- Some Prerequisites for Becoming a Technical Writer
- 11 Ways to Become an Expert Technical Writer
- Examples of Technical Writing
- Technical Writer Jobs
- Technical Writer Job Interview Questions
- Courses for Technical Writers
- Technical Writer Salary
- Some Videos for Technical Writers
What is Technical Writing?
To understand what a Technical Writer does, let’s take a look at what their job really is, which is Technical Writing.
Wikipedia says, “Technical writing is writing or drafting technical communication used in technical and occupational fields, such as computer hardware and software, architecture, engineering, chemistry, aeronautics, robotics, finance, medical, consumer electronics, biotechnology, and forestry.”
In the words of Rajpreet Singh Nayyar, who is currently working as a Senior Software Engineer at JP Morgan Chase and has worked with Scaler in the past as a Technical Content Writer, “Technical Writing is writing about technology. When we write about technology, it is not just limited to the technology that we have around, but also the complex information, subjects, algorithms, concepts that went into developing a certain technology.
Technical writing can be as simple as writing a review about a gimmicky gadget and as complex as writing a documentation on how a certain algorithm is derived.”
Typically, it is a form of writing which is technical in nature and helps companies document certain explanations easily.
Technical Writing Use of Language
Technical Writing includes a factual use of language. To be fair, that is what it is supposed to do – convey important ideas and information to people, through ‘facts’ and not opinions.
You can differentiate a normal literary essay or piece of writing from a technical piece easily.
Rajpreet, when asked about this, mentions, “This type of writing does not have any opinions or multiple views. It is all binary information that exists scientifically and makes logical sense.
There is room for metaphors and analogies, but it’s only to make the content more engaging and to make the scientific facts more relatable to things around you.”
Technical Writer Job Description
According to Workable, “A Technical Writer is a professional responsible for creating documentation that clarifies the product’s features and benefits. They work on requirements like content strategy or scoping out new products to ensure all necessary information has been included for users to understand what they’re reading quickly.”
Largely, the job description of the Technical Writer includes the following tasks:
- Framing/writing content to ‘explain’ the working of a product/service to help the audience understand it better.
- Working in synergy with other teams to prepare documentations and other writing requirements.
- Make the user interface easy for the audience to understand.
- Writing blogs/articles and developing guides/booklets/handbooks to establish a usage practice of the product/service at hand, for the users.
Explaining things in a crystal clear manner is quite important, especially when it comes to technical jargon (in terms of tech/software companies) or complex methodologies or subject matter.
LinkedIn, while explaining ‘What does a Technical Writer do?’ says, “Technical Writers are skilled wordsmiths that typically develop product manuals, how-to guides, website help sections, journal articles, and other content that distils technical information with ease and clarity.”
Some Prerequisites for Becoming a Technical Writer
- Excellent writing skills.
- Excellent grammar and spelling.
- Excellent content and editorial understanding.
- A knack for explaining things in a simpler way, by breaking down difficult concepts into smaller, and simpler explanations.
- Skills based on the field you’ve chosen or will be working on; for example: engineering.
11 Ways to Become an Expert Technical Writer
Now that you have a basic understanding of Technical Writing, it’s imperative that we help you become an expert in this field.
Anyway, mastering a field is not difficult. All it takes is some practice.
So, let’s cut right to the chase and have a look at these 11 Ways to Become an Expert Technical Writer:
- Research well: You might think of ‘researching’ as a very overrated and orthodox practice that people can do without, while coming up with an original piece. However, it is one of the most crucial stages of writing.
If you research well, you end up with many new notions about a plethora of things. You might learn something new, experiment with different thought processes, and end up writing a masterpiece.
Everything is available online these days, with Google being the biggest search engine of all time. Utilise it to your own advantage- as much as you can, till you have found the answers to all your questions.
- Identify your audience: You might be writing for an IT company at one time (as a freelancer) and working for a pharmaceutical company later.
Whatever/whoever you are writing for, it’s imperative to identify your readers. Basically, your audience.
Remember: You write for your readers and not for making your words sound flowery for yourself.
Technical Writing comes with facts and figures. So, it naturally becomes important to identify what will suit your audience. You can’t be talking about the idiosyncrasies of a health patient while you are writing for an IT company, right?
Hence, you need to figure out the needs of your readers, make a list of their pain points, see why they need your article in the first place, and then start writing.
- Keep the ‘user experience’ in mind: Now that you know who your customers are, you’ve to build something for them. To become a master at Technical Writing, you have to understand the difference between ‘researching well’ and ‘keeping the user experience in mind’.
Researching is one aspect of your job, but laying out information for your users artistically, with simplicity, is the actual challenge. Your writing needs to be friendly, and accessible, above all.
- Interview a lot of people during the writing process: When you interview various people for one piece of writing, you hear about different practices that people take up for an activity. Drawing from our experience, we learnt many new things from Rajpreet (the interviewee for this piece that we have written for you).
Talking to more and more people during the interview process helps relieve the stress of what’s going to come afterwards – the difficult part, writing everything down. You also build on your confidence and exposure. Talking anyway helps you become happier and draw closer to the communities that are building out there.
Read this piece on BBC.com about ‘the surprising benefits of talking to strangers’.
- Always chart out your thoughts: Remember how as a kid, we used to draw everything with a pencil, use a sketch-pen afterwards, and fill up the drawing of a tree with crayons towards the end? Do exactly that while writing your piece.
Sketch an outline, prepare a table of contents, and get your thoughts together, before you sit down to write your piece.
In scientific words, prepare a skeletal structure for your piece before you start with your surgical operation. You’re naturally going to save a lot of time by practising this method before starting off, so don’t forget to use this basic technique.
It’s anyway good to know at an early stage about the things your piece is going to consist of, and how you need to think about the contents.
- Keep some templates handy: If you’ve written something before which worked well in the past, keep it handy.
Use effective tools like Google Analytics to measure marketing performance and website traffic, especially for your articles, so you can see which of your works are performing the best. You can then use similar practices in your next pieces and hope for it to work well too.
However, always experiment with new things and bring something innovative to the table, apart from using the last ‘good’ practices as templates.
- Maintain accuracy: As is clear, whatever you write as a Technical Writer must be based on facts and not on opinions.
As Rajpreet also points out, “Accuracy of the content matters more than anything. Logical reasoning of what has been stated by the writer, must be clear. For that, the writer must gather or should have in detail knowledge of what they are writing.”
This point is but an extension of ‘researching well’ for the discussion or topic at hand. In Technical Writing, as should be reiterated, ‘beliefs’ do not form the content of the piece, but ‘reason’ does.
- Keep it simple, silly (KISS): Never forget this motto of keeping things simple. Technical Writers might be habitual of using ‘technical jargon’ in some cases.
This happens because they have studied a concept deeply and are aware of the technicalities involved. We should, however, keep in mind that the layman might not be able to comprehend those things easily.
As the former Technical Writer at Scaler says, “The writer should always write from an average reader’s perspective and should be aware of what the reader is going to perceive when they read it. This will allow you to write easily understandable content.
Jargon should be avoided at all costs. A good article is neither lengthy nor brief, it is always to the point. If the content is meant to be lengthy, then adding some funny liners or some analogies will keep the reader engaged with your content.
So overall, reader’s engagement is something the writer is responsible for and should organise the content accordingly.”
- Use plenty of visuals: According to the Search Engine Journal (SEJ), which is one of the best websites for write-ups and knowledge learning about Search Engine Optimisation, “Eye-catching visuals captivate us, then we use that focus to get a better idea of what a message truly is trying to say.
Visuals give us a better understanding of not just the message, but what’s behind the message — explained easier, faster, and clearer than just a cluster of written words.”
Rajpreet also says, “Illustrations should be adopted in any content. It always makes your content very expressive and makes the content for the reader unforgettable . Sometimes, illustrations clear a concept more than sentences or words.
For example, a tree data structure when used with an illustration of a basic tree and a couple of sentences will be stored in the reader’s memory for longer because now the user has associated the concept with an image.
Later on when the user tries to recall the concept, the illustration will instantly remind them of everything they read in your content.”
- Structure your content: ‘Sectioning’ is one part of structuring your content. Rajpreet carefully examines, “The content in your writing must be distributed in sections. Sections like introduction, background, core concept, examples, conclusion.
This kind of sectioning makes sense when you’re writing about a concept or a documentation about a technology or an algorithm. This may be valid to most articles, but informative Technical Writing usually has sectioning.”
Another important way to frame your writing is to present it neatly – simply, by using headers, footers, headings, subheadings, bullets, etc.
To allow your article or write-up to be readable as well as reader-friendly, is the key!
- Cling to the ‘bigger picture’: This important point is listed towards the end, because the article needs a cursory view every once in a while, which happens during the later stages of writing.
Always keep the ‘bigger picture’ in mind. It’s easy for Technical Writers to digress and shift focus. However, you must remember that people are reading your piece to gather useful information on a subject. So, give them that – always make a point, but remember: not an opinion.
Examples of Technical Writing
To make this easier to comprehend, here are some pieces of work by Rajpreet:
- Exception Handling in Python (scaler.com)
- String Slicing in Python (scaler.com)
- Tree Data Structure (scaler.com)
- Getting Familiar with RESTful APIs (Rajpreet’s Medium)
As we can learn from these write-ups, Rajpreet has chosen a ‘field’ for every such piece. Python is a programming language (first 2 articles) and he has broken down some topics in it for people to understand with ease – ‘exception handling’ and ‘string slicing’, respectively.
As one can see, Technical Writers basically have to break down complicated concepts into simpler ideas and pieces of information, for people to comprehend easily and simply.
Technical Writer Jobs
There are many platforms in this age to go on a ‘job hunt’. However, it’s always important to take up internships first, which is a discussion for another day.
Having said that, our Writers’ section on NoticeBard or writers.noticebard.com is dedicated fully to publishing important opportunities for writers in India. We are the writers’ go-to destination for everything ‘writing’.
When you visit our website, you’ll be able to see some job posts that we publish for people on the lookout for jobs. However, we have just started out with this section for writers, so please be patient with the information we provide.
You can check some of these jobs here:
- JOB POST: Associate Technical Writer at Salesforce [Multiple Locations]: Apply Now!
- JOB POST: Content Writer at OnePlus, Bangalore: Apply Now!
- JOB POST: Health & Fitness Content Writer at Sportskeeda [Remote]: Apply Now!
- JOB POST: Content Writer (2D Digital Studio) at Amazon, Chennai: Apply Now!
Technical Writer Job Interview Questions
Interviews can certainly be intimidating. Not just for Technical Writers, but for everybody. However, you need to remember that if you’re well prepared for the interview with all the necessary research, there’s not much to be scared about.
Rajpreet says, “From my experience with Scaler, they gave an assignment to write an article which was then rated and reviewed by the senior folks. And the second round was for me to review an article. My review was further reviewed by senior folks. That was all, I was shortlisted and further selected based on the ratings.”
Since you’ll be writing as a permanent part of your job, you’ll be asked to ‘write’ as a part of your hiring process, too. So, be prepared.
Interview questions are mainly of two types, according to Workable – Operational and Situational.
For you to be an expert at Technical Writing, you need to be aware of the regular operational aspects of your field. Some questions that recruiters could ask (which are not situational), are:
- How did you get into Technical Writing?
- What are some basics every Technical Writer should keep handy?
- How lengthy should a technical write-up be?
- What is the average attention span of a reader and how can you make a piece interesting for people with shorter attention spans?
- How can you generally make a technical write-up easy to understand and readable?
- How do you avoid using technical jargon and replace it with easy terms for laymen to grasp?
Again, these are not the exact questions an employer might ask, but you can be prepared for such questions. It’s always better to be prepared beforehand than sweating it during the interview.
You might be asked some questions which put you in challenging situations and then you are expected to give your best response to what you’d do in that circumstance.
These questions can be something like, “What would you do if you were put in an XYZ situation?”. These questions always have an ‘if’ and/or a ‘when’. Pro tip: Just be honest with your answers and don’t beat yourself up if you give any incorrect and inappropriate answer.
Additionally, there is also another category of questions during interviews, which is the Experience-Based Questions.
You can always be asked things like these:
- Tell us about a time XYZ’s website traffic skyrocketed because of your writing contributions.
- Did you ever have a quarrel with a coworker based on their performance? How did you tackle it?
For such types of questions, you need strong memory and sharp reflexes, because you might be challenged to think into your past experiences.
Courses for Technical Writers
Here is a list of courses which are the Editor’s Picks for Technical Writing:
- Henry Harvin: Technical Writing Course with Gold Membership
- Udemy: Business Writing & Technical Writing Immersion
Technical Writer Salary
Glassdoor, one of the top-rated websites for job-hunting, says Technical Writers earn Rs. 614,516 per year, which makes it more than Rs. 50,000 per month.
This data is nearly accurate, since they have published this with a ‘very high confidence’ badge, which means, their data is based on a large number of fresh and recent salary reports.
They also mention that the average salary per month is Rs. 80,000.
Some Videos for Technical Writers
Here are some YouTube videos you might find useful during your quest to become an Expert Technical Writer:
- How to become a Technical Writer | Skills & Career Growth by Software Spring
- Become a Technical Writer in 2022? Salary, Jobs, Education by Career Watch
- How to Become a Great Technical Writer by Technical Writer HQ
Technical Writers play a huge role in the working of any organisation, simply because they ‘break down’ complex ideas into crisp facts and figures, and then present it to the right audience.
If you want to be an Expert Technical Writer, you can blindly rely on this article for the best information and tips.
To make things easier for you to grasp, here is a recap of the 11 ways through which you can become an Expert Technical Writer:
- Research well
- Identify your audience
- Keep the ‘user experience’ in mind
- Interview a lot of people during the writing process
- Always chart out your thoughts
- Keep some templates handy
- Maintain accuracy
- Keep it simple
- Use plenty of visuals
- Structure your content
- Cling to the ‘bigger picture’
Start practising these methods and you’ll be an expert at this skill in no time!