Recently, in one of the forums, there was a debate going around that what is it that makes a good technical writer – “a writer with good writing skills” or “writer with good technical skills.”
What is it that most organizations see while hiring a technical writer, whether it is good writing skills or good technical skills?
In my view, it should be a mix of both, good writing as well as technical skills that make up a good and complete technical writer. It is not the other way around or just one skill that is a key to a good technical writer.
Here are some of the key facts that make up a good technical writer.
1. Ability to write in a clear, concise, and crisp manner
A good technical writer is one who is able to write the documents in a clear, concise, and crisp manner so the readers are able to perform the tasks right away.
2. Ability to understand the technical information
There are few writers who feel that it is not our job to understand technical concepts as it’s the job of an engineer or a software developer. Our job is just to get all this information from the engineers and then use our communication skills to turn it into good writing.
However, I would defer from this statement because as technical writers, we are not just mere copy-editors. We are not just meant to correct misspellings and move around commas. In fact, we are not technical writers but information developers who have to develop information that will be presented to the end-user. Our focus is not just to write the documents in simple words but also to ensure that the document design is presented in a simplified manner.
3. Ability to organize the information efficiently
One of the most important qualities of a technical writer is that they should be able to organize information in a manner that is user-friendly.
The content that we usually receive from the Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) is in an unorganized state so it is our job to analyze that information and then organize it effectively.
Therefore, I would follow the 80:20 rule while writing any technical document, which means that 80% of analysis and just 20% of writing the information.
4. Collaborate with team members effectively
Again, one more important quality that a technical writer must possess is the ability to collaborate with different people. Technical Writers often work in teams and collaborate with subject matter experts, programmers, and various technical experts, and that too at times, at different time zones and different cultural diversities.
So, technical writers need to be able to communicate well enough in order to gather information.
5. Ability to plan yourself accordingly during tight timelines
Time is also one of the critical skills for technical writers. Technical Writers often find themselves working against really tough deadlines, so it is essential to plan your time and produce consistent quality.
6. Ability to present the information that appeals to the user
Another most important quality of a technical writer is the ability to focus on both the facts and writing. Well, you cannot simply list the facts and leave it to the user to understand them and vice-versa. Instead, you need to first have the correct facts and then present them in a manner that appeals to the user. So, this way, technical writers can also be creative and most importantly, think from the user’s perspective.
7. Ability to think creatively
And, last but not the least, you need to be creative and think creatively. Once you have done all your analysis and have and complete knowledge of the technical subject, you need to start working on the document to make it appealing to the user. This means you need to include attractive headings, use short sentences, cite examples wherever required, and avoiding unnecessary repetition of words.
Therefore, these are some of the qualities that make up a good technical writer. So, it is not just technical or writing skills that are required for a technical writer.
Any hiring manager will look for a mix of both and all the skills listed above while hiring a technical writer for its organization.