Technical writing (sometimes shortened to tech writing) can be a lucrative source of income for freelance writers but what does it involve?
Although a technical writer may already be a specialist in a particular field, in fact any writer with the right qualities can become a technical writer.
What Does a Technical Writer Do?
A tech writer explains and communicates complex information of a specialist nature. The material may be aimed either at technical professionals, or non-specialist members of the general public.
Every field of life — medicine, science, law, computing, government, politics — has experts who need to communicate their ideas and messages to other people; but being an expert in a field doesn’t necessarily make someone a good communicator. Non-experts, or lay-people require information to be presented in a way that filters out unnecessary or confusing details or jargon and gives sufficient background information to make technical terms easy to comprehend. A technical writer does this job.
Tech writers take the information from the experts and present it in a way that is appropriate to the readers who require it. They take complex concepts and transform them into comprehensible forms by using straightforward explanations and language.
What Sort of Material Does Technical Writing Encompass?
Technical writing jobs may include:
- Instructional manuals for computer software
- Instructional manuals for hardware such as DVD players, motor cars,
- Proposals for business or grant funding
- Web pages
- Laboratory reports
- Articles for specialist publications
What Abilities Does a Technical Writer Require?
- The ability to research
- The ability to comprehend complex information of a specialist nature
- The ability to interpret surveys or reports
- The ability to organise and communicate the information in a manner appropriate to the target readership
Good technical writers have to be good teachers. They must make themselves experts in a subject – even if only for one writing job – and convey everything that they have learned to their readers in a way that is easy to understand.
- What Is Aromatherapy Vs. What Are Essential Oils?
- What is La Tomatina in Bunol, Spain Like? What to Expect at the Famous Tomato Throwing Festival
What is the Biggest Flaw in Technical Writing?
The biggest problem for the technical writer is that researching a subject and becoming conversant in it, means that there is a risk of picking up the jargon of the field. When jargon begins to look familiar, there is a temptation to use it, forgetting that it means nothing to people outside of the field.
Good technical writers rise above the jargon and find ways of expressing concepts and explaining complex subjects in a simple and easy-to-understand manner.
How to Approach a Technical Writing Job
- Consider the Medium. Is it an article for a magazine, a web page, a report, or an instructional manual? The form the piece of tech writing will take, determines how much information and what details are required.
- Identify your audience or readership. The information that needs to be gathered and the tone used in writing will necessarily differ according to the target audience. A university committee reading a report will expect a different presentation from the person who has just bought a microwave oven and requires instructions on how to use it.
- Get the best sources. Find the experts in the field, sometimes known as subject matter experts, or SMEs, then check and double check the information. It is often helpful to compare information from different sources to identify possible conflicts or disagreements and take account of them.
- Approach the article from the reader’s perspective. Defining the parameters and planning the shape and order of the article, will depend on how expert the readers are. Lay people will require much more background information than people who already have a grounding in or connection with the subject.
- Avoid jargon. Strive to make your writing easy to read and easy to understand.
Technical writing always requires more research than other forms of writing but this is reflected in the fact that it usually pays the freelance writer a higher rate. Technical writing jobs can be found on freelance bidding sites such as Elance.
The professional organization for technical communicators, the Society for Technical Communication also provides information and networking opportunities for technical writers.