Technical Writing Professions Video: Becoming a Technical Writer
Technical Writing Professions Video: Becoming a Technical Writer Transcript
Are you a techie with a passion for writing? You may want to consider a career as a technical writer. These writing professionals spend their time translating complex technical information into a language that everyone can understand. Advances in technology have created an increased demand for talented writers in this specialty.
A its most basic level, a technical writer takes technical information and translates it into text that is easier for the average person to understand. Projects that a technical writer might commonly complete include user guides, assembly instructions, product manuals and training manuals.
Job Skills and Duties
Unlike some writers, technical writers must have a basic understanding of technology. They should be able to use a computer, communications equipment and other types of electronics. Writers who create electronic documentation for the Internet may also need to be familiar with graphic design, multimedia software and content management systems. A firm grasp of grammar and usage is another important requirement. Since technical writers spend most of their time writing, they need to have the skill required to create text that not only makes sense, but also follows the rules of the English language.
Technical writers can work in nearly every industry imaginable. The types of duties they perform on the job vary depending on where the writer works. Technical writers who work for book, magazine, journal or newspaper publishers often write short articles or books that are geared towards laymen or industry professionals. Writers who work for the government frequently craft pamphlets, manuals and other materials published by the Government Printing Office. Those who work for ad agencies typically write press releases and other types of promotional material.
The amount of training needed to become a technical writer is very dependent on topic and industry. For example, some technical writers work in the insurance industry, creating manuals for agents and adjusters. In this case, knowledge of the field, the ability to do research and basic writing skills are all that is needed. But for writers who cover subjects such as science, medicine and aerospace, specialized training in the appropriate field may be necessary, as it will make it easier for the writer to properly translate technical jargon.
In short, a degree is not absolutely required to break into technical writing, but it is certainly helpful. Many technical writers enter the field with an associate's degree or a bachelor's degree. Some technical writers have a degree in a technical specialty or a professional background in writing. Others have a degree in English and a basic knowledge of technology. Those who do not have formal education sometimes start out as a technician or research assistant and then transfer later into the writing field.
Many of the people who work as technical writers are self-employed. They freelance and sell their copy to publishers, ad agencies and other firms who are looking for a technical translator. Those who aren't self-employed generally work on a contract basis for large companies. Writers may start out fact checking or copyediting before they are allowed to move on to bigger projects. Technical writers with a great deal of experience are known as senior technical writers or editors. They sometimes work alone, but more frequently head up small teams of technical writers to complete various projects. Although most technical writers work standard 40 hour weeks, overtime may be needed in order to meet deadlines.
Technical writers are people who can convey complicated ideas in simplified terms. Their job requires attention to detail, creativity and a solid understanding of written English. Technical writing is a great career choice for writers who have technical abilities and for techs who love to write.
Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook - Writers and Editors
Wikipedia - Technical Writing
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