Bangalore, 30 Sep, 2013: Demystifying Technical Writing: 10 dos/don’ts for a technical writer

Information is best used when documented. A written record can be referenced, re-used, and enhanced. Technical Writers work in teams comprising Business Analysts, Subject Matter Experts (SMEs), Software Developers, Quality Specialists, and Translators. All team members are managed by Project Managers. So what happens when you ask a Technical Writer to create documentation for a product? Very simply put, they follow a logical phased process such as Define → Plan → Write → Review → Publish. Swaroop Lawrence, Chief marketing officer, TWB, shares his views on this entire phase.

Each of these phases requires them to engage with various team members to roll out information in order to understand the business, product, and audience. Once they have their requirements defined it’s all about planning activities, defining milestones, and tracking the progress of their project.

Now nothing gets published without that significant quality approval. That’s called a Review. There are reviews for technical accuracy, writing standards, and the final copy edit check. Global writing standards and company-specific rules play a huge part in achieving quality goals. So this is where the pressure is the highest.

Finally, once you have it clean and approved, it’s time to release the information, or in Technical Writing terms, publish your content. Various software authoring tools are used throughout this process, enabling the Technical Writer to focus on writing and quality. A good Technical Writer is a professional who has very good writing skills, an eye for detail, and an inquiring mind. They have the ability to understand how businesses work and question various aspects to get complete business domain knowledge. Good listening skills, and interviewing skills are key characteristics of an experienced Technical Writer.

1. Know your audience well – you are writing for them, not yourself!2. Know your product well – you are expected to write facts not fiction.3. Write for very good readability – your audience should be able to read your content once and understand. 4. Plan your time – this is a challenging career and you have to multitask during your project.5. Stay in touch with the language in which you write – knowing your grammar well is the key to good writing!6. Refer to an accepted standard of writing. It acts as a good reference for quality checks and evaluations.7. Proofread and rewrite repeatedly. 8. Know your software technology writing tools well. The power and features of a good word processor can save you plenty of time when you need it most.9. Get yourself a few good reference books on grammar, writing standards, and software writing tools. 10.  Practice as often as you can. That’s how you stay in touch with writing and continuous improvement!

1. Don’t assume you know something – clarify and confirm your knowledge.2. Don’t be afraid of technology. It’s just another way of doing something, but doing it better!3. Don’t speak two different languages in one sentence, especially if English is one of them!4. Don’t use gender-specific or gender-biased terms5. Don’t write without first defining a scope.6. Don’t write without knowing who you are writing for. 7. Don’t cite a paper you have not read.8. Don’t try and get your sentence right the first time. Write, then re-write, and re-write. 9. Don’t release your content without a thorough review.10. Don’t think this profession is just about basic writing. It is a skill that is challenging, yet interesting!