Technical Writing / Technical writing and skills

What is Technical Writing and most needed skills

Most of us know about movie story writers, song writers and content writers. While every type of writing is mostly about writing, there is a huge difference in the writing style, context, and whom they are writing for (the target audience).

Talking about Technical Writing, it’s about explaining how the application or software or a service or system works. You must be wondering what is a big deal in writing what has been developed. That’s where the catch is! Technical Writer has to understand heaps of information from product required documents, design documents, approach documents, and some folklores as well. The next step is converting this heaps of information (eg: 100 pages of information collected) to simple, concise and easy to understand content (i.e 10 pages of meaningful and useful content).

Technical Writers convey complex information in a simple and easy to understand way.

During this process Technical Writers test the application, may find bugs and report to developers, may suggest ideas in designing the application or system.

Skills needed

To turn complex to simpler, a Technical Writer must posses certain skills and has to go through the following process -

  • Research and understanding skill: Read the artifacts provided, understand and synthesise the information.
  • Questioning skill: Pose right questions to product managers, engineers, SMEs for getting information you need. Respecting others time is important so Technical Writer should work on questioning skills and create more open-ended questions.
  • Listening skill: This is most important for a Writer to grasp more information about a topic.
  • Writing Skill: As it’s about writing, one should be able to write that is understandable to others. Technical Writers follow some techniques and style guides such as Microsoft Manual of Style guide (MSTP), Chicago Manual of Style guide, Google Developers guide.
  • Tools analysis: At times, Technical Writers are expected to analyse authoring tools and provide Tool comparison matrix.
  • Decision-making skill: Technical writers are the advocates of users. They put themselves in users shoes and ask right questions and make decisions on documentation that serves users well.
  • Design skill: Sometimes, a picture is better than 1000 words. We often come across complex processes that needs different set of guides. In that case, Technical Writers should be able to create workflow diagrams, images that conveys the information, process diagrams etc.
  • User research skill: We often see companies conduct surveys, gather data and derive insights to build products that users like so that they buy. Similar approach works here as well. Interview users, understand pain points and address them through documentation.
  • Testing skill: Technical Writers need to ensure if what they have written is technically accurate. Alongside technical reviews on the content by Engineers, Writers will have to test the application to ensure that documentation is in-line with the developed features or functionality.

Understanding user needs is most important element.

Coding skill: Finally, Technical skills. Having domain knowledge and coding skills alongside the aforementioned skills, is a perfect combo. It’s the ultimate combo 😊. One need not be a programmer who develop stuff, but would be great if one can read the code and understand the flow of system to some extent.

Hope you enjoyed reading the article. If you have any questions or would like to know about certain topic, please drop in the comments below.

Happy learning!

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Navya G

Navya G

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Lead Technical writer for Data Platform & loves to share my learnings about data, productivity, tech writing, self-help & more|A Data Analytics aspirant