Technical Writing Fundamentals

By Helen Shukla

1. What is Technical Writing ?
Technical Writing is compiling information with reference to a context for a specific audience. Simply put, Technical Writing is creating content (description / images) for a product or process, keeping in mind the audience of the information. For Example: A user manual for a mobile phone.

The user manual (Technical Document) for a mobile phone (Context) should be prepared for the end user (Audience) and effectively convey the following Information:

  • Descriptions of the parts of the device
  • Scenario description i.e. when various features can be used
  • Instruction on how to use the device

2. What kind of companies need Technical Writers ?
All companies that require information to be documented will need Technical Writers. Whether it is a web page, a product description brochure, an FAQ, an annual report or a process manual, technical writers have the required skill sets to create and deliver this content. Some of the key companies that need technical writers include:

  • Robotics
  • Information technology
  • Computer hardware and software
  • Finance
  • Aerospace
  • Biotechnology
  • Consumer electronics
  • Healthcare
  • Hospitality

3. Why is Technical Writing important ?
Information is best used when documented. An obvious example of this would be the World Wide Web. Without creating content – what exactly would we be reading? So, the importance of Technical Writing and related professions like Instuctional Design, Content Writing and Business Communication, is creating a record of information. When you have a written record, it can be referenced, re-used, and enhanced, thus Technical Writing:

  • Improves efficiency and thus, accuracy of tasks
  • Reduces customer support costs
  • Makes products easy to use
  • Drive customer satisfaction

4. Could you explain in brief about the Technical writing process?
Technical documents are written by technical Writers or Information Developers.

  • Technical Writers work in teams comprising Subject Matter Experts(SMEs), Quality Specialists, and Project Managers.
  • Techical Writers interview these other specialists to roll in the content and get an understanding of how things work.
  • Technical Writers then design, structure this information, and create the complete content to make the documentation ready for delivery to a customer.

5. What qualities does a good technical writer possess?

  • The writer clearly understands the subject and describes the information with the correct user perspective
  • The writer effectively communicates technical/complex information to the audience
  • The writer clearly explains technology and related ideas to technical and non-technial audiences

6. Who can be a Technical Writer?
To be a Technical Writer one should:

  • Be proficient in writing
  • Have the ability to understand technology, software applications and business domains
  • Have good people skills
  • Have good listening skills
  • A technical writing career is suitable for all graduates in Engineering, Arts, Science and Commerce

7. What career opportunities would be available in the field of Technical Writing?
Just like software development and business process outsourcing, technical writing has been witnessing a growing demand for the past 20 years. Moreover, with the popularity and effectiveness of blogs, product review sights, and online forums, technical writer’s opportunities have multiplied. So technical writers can be part of the fast-growing Technical Communications industry, a 1 billion USD opportunity in India. There is a need of about 40,000+ new technical writers per year. Technical Writers begin their careers on high-paying salaries. With experience and skills, this reward is even bigger. They can gain experience and knowledge to reach an expert level in a domain, like in any other profession.

8. How do you begin a career in Technical Writing?
It is critical to gain a certification on the fundamentals of your chosen career. Find the best institute that you have access to, read what the past students have to say about the institute, understand what you will be taught and enroll in the program of your choice. This would be the first step towards a career in technical writing.

Helen Shukla, the co-founder of TWB, has over 25 years of experience in the Technical Communication Industry. Helen has also authored the Book “Technical Communication – A Comprehensive Reference”.