Friday, November 30, 2012

Technical Writing Unveiled - part 2

This is a second post in a series of posts about Technical Writing and I guess it would be better if you read the episode number one  first.

Continuing from the set of questions I asked you in the last post, here comes the next set of questions.

  • Are you confident about your English?

Technical Writing is not confined to the medium of English. However, most of the technical writing jobs require you to have a good knowledge of English. This does not mean that you should have a degree in English to be a Technical Writer. If you know the basic rules, that is enough. 

Although Technical Writer is a person who uses simple language to communicate, he/she might have to help the marketing department to write brochures during free time. This means that every Technical Writer should have that creativity within him/her. If not, it will be hard to survive in the field and you will have to ask another person to format the text you have just generated. If your job description says that you only have to write the text, you will not have to color up your work. Nevertheless,it is good to be an all rounder.

Talking about confidence, being over-confident is not so good. Before submitting the final documentation you have done, a good technical writer makes it a point to get a peer review done by a colleague. At that stage, your colleague might show your mistakes and might ask you to change sentences or even a topic itself. Ability to take criticism in a constructive manner is therefore a must for a Technical Writer.

  • Have you ever created a video?

Technical Writing, in another words, is to present technical information in a non-technical way. Videos are one of the easiest ways to achieve that. Most of the users these days like to watch a video  than reading a help text. So, it is important that you know the basics in video editing. Even if you do not know how to make videos, you should have at least watched some video tutorials. Then you know the difference between an effective video tutorial and a useless one. When you work on a tutorial yourself, your previous experience with videos will definitely be an advantage.

If you have done this, it means you are brave enough to test a new development and love to take a risk. It also implies that you are very quick to adapt into new technologies. As a Technical Writer, you will be presented with fresh software, just out of the factory. If you are afraid to embrace new technologies, test new software products and not brave enough find your way through a new application, you will not enjoy being a Technical Writer.

A part of your job is to test new software, find out how the users can make use of it and write how-to-guides. Thus, being a Technical Writer means that you will have to figure out a software/system by your self. If you have solved your IT problems by yourself and if you are open to use new technologies, Technical Writing is the job for you.

  • This is optional, but have you ever worked as a teacher?

Teaching is similar to Technical Writing. A teacher learns subject matter first and present it to his/her students in a simple manner. Thus, being a teacher is an extra advantage for a Technical Writer. If you have ever worked as a teacher, you'd have probably tested numerous teaching methods and have tried to present the lesson in the simplest and the most memorable way. Technical Writing, as I believe, is just Teaching, but in a different way.

  • Do you like working with computers all the time?

This is the most important question. You will have to live with a computer all the day and if you love it, you'll enjoy the job. Messing around with a computer means not looking at the Facebook ticker all the time or watching movies 24/7. If you are a person who loves to check out how Facebook works rather than watching the ticker, you are qualified to become a technical writer.

If you have a degree or diploma to say that you are officially a genius, that will be valued a lot but it does not mean that you must have paper qualifications in IT to become a Technical Writer in an IT environment.

Thus ends the ten questions to make sure whether you will fit into the role of a technical writer :)

If you want to learn more about the profession, make sure to check the official web site of the Society  for Technical Writers which is the professional society for the advancement of the theory and practice of technical communication (Wikipedia).They offer webinars, virtual conferences and online learning sessions from time to time to improve the quality of the output produced by Technical Communicators aka Technical Writers.

Society for Technical Writers also maintains a Technical Communication Body of Knowledge  or TCBoK which helps the budding Technical Communicators to 
  • Get to know About technical communication
  • Manage their career in technical communication
  • Produce high quality technical communication material
  • Get to know how to advance in the profession through research
If you are an experienced Technical Communicator, you are welcome to volunteer too.

I hope all the links and the information given would have provided an overview of the profession. Got more questions?

Use the comments form to voice out your concerns or contact me in person if you want more personalized answers.

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