Technical Writing, a form of technical communication, is a style of formal writing and business communication, used in fields as diverse as computer hardware and software, chemistry, the aerospace industry, robotics, finance, consumer electronics, and biotechnology. Good technical writing clarifies technical jargon; that is, it presents useful information that is clear and easy to understand for the intended audience.
Is less always more? I’m not sure. But if Apple’s minimalistic designs are any indicator of trends, minimalism in documentation is something to pay attention to. Here are five ideas for minimizing documentation.
This Authors’ Guide tells you everything you need to know to write Missing Manual. It starts out by giving you a brief introduction to the Missing Manual way of explaining things and then takes you through the nitty gritty of style guidelines, figure formatting, and so on.
Whether you are an aspiring technical writer, or just starting out, or have been in the technical writing game for a while, we are here to give you the support and encouragement you may need from time-to-time.
One of the areas the 2001 ITAA survey looks at is supply and demand. Of the estimated 258,332 jobs that IT hiring managers predict they will add this year, only 1,799, or less than 1%, are for tech writers. This is down a whopping 91% from the year 2000 where the 20,773 available tech writer jobs accounted for almost 5% of the total. The news may not be as bad as it sounds. On the supply side, there is an expected shortfall of 1,008 qualified candidates in filling the open tech writer jobs.
Over a thirty-year career at Syracuse University, I have been involved in setting up programs in Professional and Technical Writing (PTW) more than once, and I have also had some involvement in helping lay the groundwork for two other programs. The contexts for these various experiences differed greatly, and in all cases local circumstances and negotiation of immediate local and surrounding campus cultures had a lot to do with the outcome of such efforts. My reflections in the pages that follow attempt to explain through example the complex ways that programs are based on human networks, not on theory and scholarship alone. I try to provide a sense of the decisions I made as I determined how best to function within the different institutional settings.
If you have the stomach for it, technical writing can be the path to a full-time writing career. I did it for three years before switching to general business writing, which offers more variety. If you decide to go technical, be sure to keep reading the work of authors you admire so your day job doesn't make you forget everything you ever knew about 'real' writing.
There seems to be a pervasive view that there are two types of writing: 'Noble' (or 'pure') and 'Non-Noble' (or 'technical'). The main problem with that myopic view is that status is immediately connoted. Nobody wants to classify themselves as residing on the non-noble side of the writing world.
For most readers of TC-Forum, technical communication is an activity undertaken by dedicated technical communicators, for whom writing, editing, illustrating, or page-making is their chosen vocation. Yet there is also a much larger community for whom technical communication is only a secondary activity, although it remains an essential part of their work.
The best technical writers do user research to understand the audience for their documentation, create user profiles or personas, perform task analyses, and do usability testing to ensure that their documentation meets users’ needs. All of these are activities in which a user researcher engages. Thus, as a technical writer, you can start amassing experience in user research and building a portfolio of user research documentation.
In this video clip, Ecademy’s Thomas Power talks about how business leaders will have to switch between “institutional thinking” (closed, selective and controlling) and ”network thinking” (open, random and supportive). There’s a similar challenge for technical communicators - between traditional “closed” user documents and collaborative, conversational, “open” online user assistance.
Without a good plan for awareness, many of the other efforts related to technical writing — good user help, a usable interface, accurate requirements, bug-free functionality, and so on, don’t matter a whole lot.
User-generated documentation is a big issue in technical communication circles. If properly done, tapping into the knowledge of users can improve the quality and breadth of your documentation.
Changes are so massive, so fast, and coming from so many directions that it is impossible to keep up. Still, it’s important to try. For anything that applies to IT applies to tech writing. Writers must be know something about everything and be ready for it. We’re going to have to specialize and collaborate more than ever before.
The purpose of my blog is to provide tech writers with information about changes and how said changes may impact documentation. That is also the purpose of my Twitter feed. I gather up as much information as I can and pass it on. I've found some excellent feeds to follow related to the various topics of which tech writers need to be aware.
Like most people who entered the technical communication profession in India in the mid to late 1990s, I too became a technical writer more by accident than by design. I enjoyed my technical writing career thoroughly, but slowly moved away, and a decade later, I now find myself heading the Quality Management function at a multi-national clinical research and technology company in India. The career paths of no two individuals are similar. And yet, there are always some common themes in successful transitions from one career path to another.