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How to Become a Technical Writer

Learn how to become a technical writer without experience. Unlock your path to becoming a skilled technical writer.

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Rijvi Ahmed

Last updated on Dec 10th, 2023

How to Become a Technical Writer

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Technical writing is a highly valuable skill. It is crucial for anyone working in a tech-related business, for engineers and scientists communicating their technical knowledge, and for people looking for rewarding, full-time work as writers. There is a question among people about ‘How to be a technical writer without experience?’. Let’s delve into the steps and strategies that can pave your path to mastering the art of technical writing. 

Technical writers, sometimes referred to as technical communicators, use their special skills to simplify difficult-to-understand, specialized information. Technical writers are essential to developing a successful product and a positive user experience, whether producing press releases, social media posts, instruction manuals and videos, product descriptions, tutorials, quick reference guides, software documentation, or white papers.

So, let’s go deep into becoming a Technical Writer, and let me explain how to get into technical writing. In this article, I will explain what you need to know to become a technical writer. We’ll learn about what technical writing is, the skills you need, how to become a technical writer, and tips to help you become good at it.

What is a technical writer?

A technical writer is a skilled professional who specializes in producing written materials that effectively convey complex technical or specialized information to a diverse audience. Their primary role involves translating intricate technical concepts, processes, or products into clear, concise, and user-friendly documents, such as user manuals, reports, guides, and online content. 

Technical writers often collaborate closely with subject matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity, playing a crucial role in making complex information accessible and understandable to end-users, which can improve user experience, safety, and overall understanding in various fields and industries.

What is technical writing?

We can define technical writing in many different ways. But the definition by Grammar is the most helpful. It explains exactly what technical writing is all about: “Technical writing is a type of writing where the author writes about a particular subject that requires direction, instruction, or explanation.”

Simply put, technical writing involves straightforward, easy-to-understand explanations of and instructions for a particular subject. Technical writing is a form of communication used in information technology, engineering, science, finance, and technology. Technical writing takes complex language in technical and scientific fields and simplifies it for the average reader. The Society of Technical Communication broadly defines technical writing as any form of communication that shows one or more of the following qualities:

  • Communicating about technical or specialized topics, such as computer applications, medical procedures, or environmental regulations.
  • Communicating by using technology, such as web pages, help files, or social media sites.
  • Providing instructions about how to do something, regardless of how technical the task is or even if technology is used to create or distribute that communication.

This writing style covers any type of text that aims to explain detailed information. A technical writer communicates in a way that presents technical information so that the reader can use that information for an intended purpose.

Related: How to Become a Writer Without a Degree

Different Types of Technical Writing

The most common types of technical writing are:

  1. User guides and instruction manuals, which are pamphlets and booklets containing written “how-to” guidelines.
  2. Medical and scientific papers are often published in medical journals.
  3. Technical descriptions are used to describe how products, processes, or concepts work.
  4. White papers that convey complex issues and present solutions.
  5. Case studies that focus on surveys and consumer experiences.

Technical documentation has a clear, direct, and neutral style. The text should present the information in the most professional and accessible way possible.

How to Become a Technical Writer without Experience

What does a technical writer do?

Specialized writers put together instruction manuals, user guides, habitually inquired questions, and easy-to-read journal articles. But that’s only the tip of the iceberg. The typical duties and responsibilities of a technical writer include:

  • Examining product samples and describing them to consumers in easy-to-read text.
  • Working with technical personnel to simplify complex product descriptions and instructions.
  • Writing and revising product copy.
  • Writing technical documents tailored to users’ needs.
  • Writing instructional material for technical staff or other staff across a wide range of industries.
  • Editing content from other writers.
  • Researching topics by visiting libraries and websites, working directly with technical specialists, and making observations.
  • Updating and improving content based on user feedback.
  • Utilizing visual references (graphs, images, animations, etc.) to help readers better understand reading material.
  • Deciding which medium (manuals, videos, diagrams, etc.) best conveys content for your audience.
  • Standardizing content across all media platforms.

Technical writers work for professional, logical, and technical services. A few work for manufacturers, administrative and support services, and publishing companies. Take a look at Monster’s technical writer job description to get an idea of what employers expect from a technical writer.

The skills for how to become a technical writer

Technical writers are experts at communicating complex technical information in a clear and easy-to-understand manner. To do this job well, you need to have technical and communication skills. The most important skills a technical writer should have are: George Standifer, a technical writing instructor at Arizona State University’s School of Applied Professional Studies, said these are the 13 most important skills a technical writer should possess:

  1. Writing skills: Strong writing skills are essential for technical writers. You should be able to write concisely and logically, using appropriate Grammar and punctuation. Technical writing often requires precise and unambiguous language.
  2. Organizational skills: Technical documentation can be extensive, so technical writers must be skilled at organizing information. Creating logical structures and using headings, subheadings, and bullet points to make the content easily navigable is essential.
  3. Audience analysis: Understanding the audience is crucial. Technical writers should know who their readers are, their level of technical expertise, and what they expect from the documentation. This helps tailor the content to suit the audience’s needs.
  4. Technical proficiency: Technical writers must have a good understanding of the subject matter they’re writing about. You should be able to grasp complex technical concepts and translate them into accessible language for your target audience.
  5. Knowledge of documentation tools: Technical writers should be familiar with various documentation tools and software, such as Microsoft Word, Adobe products such as FrameMaker, InDesign, and Photoshop, or other authoring tools commonly used in the industry.
  6. Attention to detail: Accuracy is paramount in technical writing. Writers need to be meticulous in verifying facts, data, and technical specifications before including them in the documentation.
  7. Collaboration: Technical writers often work with subject matter experts, engineers, developers, and other stakeholders. Collaborative skills are necessary for gathering information and clarifying technical details.
  8. Adaptability: Technology is constantly evolving, and technical writers must keep up with the latest advancements. Being adaptable to change and learning new tools and technologies is important.
  9. Visual communication: The ability to use visuals effectively, such as diagrams, charts, and images, can enhance the understanding of technical concepts and improve the overall user experience.
  10. Quality assurance: Reviewing and editing your work for clarity, correctness, and consistency is essential to maintain the quality of the documentation.
  11. User empathy: You’ll need to understand the end user’s perspective and empathize with their challenges. This will allow you to create user-friendly documentation that addresses their needs and concerns.
  12. Information architecture: Knowing how to structure content and create effective navigation paths in both printed and online documentation is vital for user accessibility.
  13. Compliance and regulatory awareness: Depending on the industry, technical writers may need to be aware of specific regulations, standards, and compliance requirements that affect the documentation.

Do You Need a Degree to Be a Technical Writer?

Normally, the Technical writers have a bachelor’s degree in English or communication or a second in English and science and technology. If you need a valid college degree, consider getting one from one of these top universities. Expect to take courses that cover:

  • Literary studies
  • English composition
  • Contexts of writing
  • Writing workshops
  • Business writing

On the subject of technical writing minors, many colleges and universities offer courses that can add college credits to a bachelor’s degree. A technical writing minor will help you improve your writing, editing, and presentation skills on technical topics. You will learn to write specifically for business, technology, and science.

Completing an internship in technical writing will help you gain hands-on experience and land your first job quickly. Check with your university to see if they have training opportunities. Education is key to becoming a technical writer. Help to cover the costs of your education by checking out these scholarships for technical and business writing majors.

What is the Technical Writer Career Path?

If we are to break it down, the technical writing career path starts with a bachelor’s degree in a technical field. Using that degree, you get a few years of experience in a technical job. Then, you use that experience to develop complex technical documentation. 

However, having a bachelor’s degree is optional in some industries. For example, if you work as a heavy maintenance professional, there’s a good chance you went to trade school. Or, you’re developing your skills while working. In any case, you have the skills and the knowledge for heavy maintenance without going to college. You can transform that experience by developing technical documentation, such as heavy maintenance checklists, manuals, and guides. Therefore, it’s okay to have a bachelor’s degree. 

The same applies to programmers and data experts who learn skills online. However, in all cases, having active work experience is a requirement. That experience can be with an organization or private projects in your portfolio. 

Furthermore, let’s say you’re already a technical writer but still a bit new to the field. As you move on in your technical writer career, you’ll have a few different paths. Typically, technical writers move on to become senior technical writers and technical writing managers (or technical content marketing managers). Another career path is where you can move on to become a technical writing editor or technical editor. Some organizations have specific job roles, such as documentation manager or API technical writer. That mostly depends on your industry and organization.

Technical Writer salary and job outlook

As of 2021, 55,400 technical writers were employed, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That number is expected to grow by 6 percent for a total of 58,400 technical writers by 2031, with a projected 5,400 openings each year.

The full compensation package for a technical writer depends on a variety of factors, including but not limited to the candidate’s experience and geographic location. See below for detailed information on the average technical salary.

Tips and Advice to the Technical Writers

Technical writing is a specialty area that requires specific skills, knowledge, and expertise. The goal of technical writing is to convey a message about how to do something understandably. It’s not easy, but with consistent practice and utilization of the right tools, you can hone your skills. Achieving good technical writing skills can make all the difference in your career.

6 Tips for Developing Better Writing Skills

 Here are six technical writing tips that will help you get started on improving your technical writing style.

  1. Read more books. There are plenty of resources at your disposal, such as the many articles on Entrepreneur and WiseBread, that will help you hone your skills.
  2. Analyze what you read for errors in Grammar, punctuation, and spelling, as well as logical flow and organization of ideas.
  3. Practice writing by starting with short sentences or paragraphs and gradually working up to writing essays or other longer pieces of text.
  4. Start with a topic that you’re familiar with- ideally something related to your career field- and then build from there to challenge yourself with less familiar topics.
  5. Reflect on your process- What worked? What didn’t work? What could you do better next time?
  6. Get feedback on your work from others who know what they’re talking about – this could be friends, colleagues, family members, or even someone who knows nothing about the subject matter but has good advice on how to improve it!

These six tips I think you should know as you are a technical writer.

Practice and Learn from Experts

You can’t just sit down and expect to write something brilliant. The best way to improve your technical writing skills is to practice, practice, and then practice some more. You can read a lot of articles on the subject and find amazing technical writing tips, but the best way to learn how to write well is by doing it yourself.

Once you start writing, you’ll notice what works and what doesn’t. When you come across an issue or something that might not work as well, go online and research other examples of technical writing. You want to avoid reinventing the wheel when it comes to style and formatting. You’ll need to know-

  • Style guidelines 
  • Applicable assiduity regulations 
  • Purpose and range of the document 
  • Fresh deliverables ( appendix, glossary, etc.) 
  • Followership demographics 

Once you know how numerous documents you’re producing, what they need to negotiate, and who their followership is, you can start outlining them. You may acclimate the figure as you write, but you should have a general idea of which information will go where. People read primers and standard operating procedures (Bribes) to learn how to do what they need to get done.

Final thoughts

Technical writing continues to be a highly coveted skill in the professional workplace. Demand is expected to grow at least 10% from 2014 to 2024. Writing, like many other crafts, takes years of practice to hone. The best part of writing is that you can see your improvement. You can look at your previous works and see how much better you’ve gotten over time if you work at it.

Also, technical writers have the great benefit of becoming lifelong learners because they need to be well-versed in whatever field or topic they are writing about to communicate the content clearly to readers. I strongly encourage you not just to start this journey but also to stay consistent with your writing as well.

That’s all, folks! I hope this was helpful. If yes, follow us to access more content like this.

How we've reviewed this article

Our content is thoroughly researched and fact-checked using reputable sources. While we aim for precision, we encourage independent verification for complete confidence.

We keep our articles up-to-date regularly to ensure accuracy and relevance as new information becomes available.

Written By
Rijvi Ahmed
Edited By
Murad Khan
Reviewed By
Editorial Team

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