Definition of Technical Writing...
Introducing a Worthy Profession
To introduce this compelling and profitable career, let's start with a simple definition of technical writing. Just what do technical writers do?
- gather detailed information
- organize it, and then
- present it to those who need it in a clear and useful form
Let's face it. Technical writing is an activity that people rarely think about. But suppose all technical documentation suddenly disappeared... Everyone would notice! We all depend on technical writing. When we assemble a ceiling fan, or construct the next space shuttle; when we read a medical article or flip through an office manual, we're using technical writing.
The US Department of Labor - Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook (2004-2005 edition) gives us a more in-depth (albeit rather dreary) definition of technical writing:
"Technical writers put technical information into easily understandable language. They prepare operating and maintenance manuals, catalogs, parts lists, assembly instructions, sales promotion materials, and project proposals. Many technical writers work with engineers on technical subject matters to prepare written interpretations of engineering and design specifications and other information for a general readership. They plan and edit technical materials and oversee the preparation of illustrations, photographs, diagrams, and charts."
A Booming Industry...
Naturally, it follows that all companies that make products and market their services need technical writers. The interesting point is... technical writing is a booming industry simply because of what it is.
Technical writers work in all sorts of media, including:
- Text (written words)
- Graphics and illustrations
- Online help
- Web sites
According to the 2003 Salary Survey from the Society for Technical Communications (STC), the mean technical writer salary for entry-level technical writers and editors in the United States was $43,260. For these professionals in Canada, it was $41,030.
With so many career choices, it's no surprise that technical writers are dubbed with many other job titles, including:
- Documentation manager
- Technical editor
- Documentation specialist
- Technical communicator
- Information developer
- Technical illustrator
- Web designer
- Usability specialist
Tech Writers are Always Learning...
An intriguing feature of career technical writing is that the writers, however seasoned, are always learning new industries. Most tech writers are resourceful self-starters, ready to wear new "hats" when the occasion demands.
Technical writers work in countless fields such as manufacturing and merchandise, the Internet, science and medicine, the computer industry, and government. There is always a technical writer job description posted throughout these industries, both for freelance and contract technical writers, and in-house writers.
we'll take a broad look at the sort of work a technical writer does.
Click Here to Discover How to Become a Technical Writer
As a technical writer, you would create documentation of all kinds. Each technical writer job description varies widely from project to project.
Technical writers often start out their careers in a medium they are familiar with (Word, or HTML based for example) and then branch out and learn new media. Constant learning is a hallmark of a technical writer!
Going back to our simple definition of technical writing, a tech writer...
- Gathers information
- Organizes the information
- Presents the information in an understandable and useful form
Now, to make a more realistic definition of technical writing, let's add a few important features:
You Gather Information...
This involves data research, plus interviews with end-users (also called the “intended audience”... the people who actually have to use the information.) You may also interview the subject matter experts (the people with the expert knowledge of the topic you're writing about.)
Often you will need to "learn" the product or process you are writing about, from beginning to end. You won't need to be an expert, but you'll need to know how to use the product or perform the process. You'll become an end-user!
You Organize The Information...
You decide what the contents of the document are and organize the contents into logical and usable order. Then... you draw up an outline and write a rough draft of the document.
Next follows the review process. You’ll send the document through a cycle of edit-and-review with the development team, until the document is clarified, tested and accurate.
You Present The Information In An Understandable
And Useful Form...
Now you have the final version completed. Your document is perfect and ready for prime time! Your resulting work is a clear, concise presentation, and is delivered in the format best suited for your audience.