Wednesday, May 20, 2009. Deccan HeraldFor the technically sound writer

How about a career built on writing about how things work, asks Pallavi Deshpande

The field of Technical communication is immensely fascinating as it is about comprehending and then communicating highly technical concepts to people. It involves creating technical manuals, training material and user guides for a variety of products; from electronic hardware to financial products. Omnipresent, this form of written communication is more widely read than you might imagined.

It is a journey of writing which begins with capturing the – what’, or the technical intricacies, and then communicates the Ëœhow’s about the working of various products. Of course, some basic knowledge about the product one is writing about, is required. For example, if you have no idea about what certain medical terminologies mean, you will hardly be able to write the user guide for an X-ray machine.

Qualification

There is no specific academic background this field demands.

However, a graduate and post graduate certification programme in technical communication from one of the good training institutes, like the Bangalore-based The Writers Block or Technopoint, would certainly help.

Skill set

While any graduate with a flair for writing can be a technical writer, the profession is a lot harder than it looks. The job demands that the writer’s communication be concise and clear. The writers also need to have an understanding of the audience’s background and possible knowledge of the subject. That way they avoid the pitfalls of jargon-throwing or dumbing down explanations more than required. The other required skills would be:

* Impeccable spoken and written English skills

*Good interpersonal skills

*Knowledge of software tools like Framemaker, Robohelp, HTML, XML and some graphic tools like illustrator.

Stephen N, Technical Writer Lead for the Hyderabad based Techtotal Soft systems has an interesting point to share. He says, “The talent in showing ideas graphically and patience in problem solving help technical writers gain an edge over others.”

Technical writers can work for product manufacturing companies such as automobiles, aviation, telecommunication and many others. They can get started as associate technical writers and, with substantial experience, can move up the professional ladder as team leaders and then documentation managers or product analysts.

So the career path is quite promising with a starting salary of around three lakh per annum, which could go beyond ten lakh per annum, depending on one’s performance.
“To be strongly established in the field of technical communication, it is vital to get some basics in place,” says Dr Annapoorna Ravichander, Director-training of The Writer’s Block (TWB), a Bangalore-based training firm for technical writing. She has found that “a keen insight into the technical aspects helps the writer capture the essence of technology”.
Writing skills plays a vital role in this kind of communication, Annapoorna adds. So grammatically correct English and specific style guides like Chicago Manual of style, or Microsoft’s Manual are important. Presenting the document, creatively, with illustrations will add value to your work.

White paper presentation

There is another interesting facet of technical communication – case studies and white papers. Both these are reports about the problems and crises faced by companies and how they were overcome.

If the technical writers want to stand apart from the rest, what are the strategies to develop their Unique Selling Point? Gururaj BS, the owner of Technical Writers of India (TWIN), a portal for technical writers, stresses the need for research and an insight into the reader’s mind. “The ability to put technical concepts in perspective gives an edge to writers,” he says. If you’re creative, all the better. “An enquiring mind and out-of-the-box thinking contributes to the creativity fact and helps in crafting the technical communication,” says Annapoorna.

Expressing your ideas creatively has another interesting side-effect. Anita Sadashiv, the Director of Bangalore-based TechnoPoint India, says that the field has helped writers develop other latent skills too, like editing, graphics and conducting training sessions.
The investment is small and risk negligible, especially if you want to start out as a freelancer. Definitely a career worth exploring.

Training institute in Bangalore

Technical Writing Training
Address:
#421, Carlton Towers,
1 Airport road,
Bangalore
Telephone: 080 65681986
www.twb.edu.in
Email: info@twb.in

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