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Becoming a Technical Writer

Updated on September 29, 2012

Becoming a Technical Writer

Becoming a technical writer is a great way to earn a decent income off of writing, which can be performed at home in an office. Technical writers need to have both education and experience to do well in the field, as well as having a strong desire to excel.

A technical writer is essentially a professional writer who creates technical documentation. By technical documentation we mean user guides, manuals, white papers, specifications for designs and prints. These can even create online help documentation and video feeds. The difference between technical writing and other forms of writing is that technical writers have to have the ability to understand the technical components of the subject and transform such technical information into documentation that can be read by business, technical or consumer audiences. A good technical writer can produce content that is clear, concise and complete.

Technical writers typically produce three kinds of documents. End user assistance products are informational products, such as owner’s manuals, that are designed to help a user understand how to use the product or service. Technical documentation refers to documents aimed at a particular audience, such as a maintenance guide or engineering specifications. Technical writers that write on the subject of computer programs are often called program writers. Finally marketing communications are written to market products and advertisements to consumers. A good technical writer may not be an expert in the subject they are writing about, but they do have the expertise to interview and research the topic and write knowledgably about the subject; this is the technical writer’s most desired attribute. Technical writers also need to have an ability to write concisely and accurately.

Technical Writer's Educational Background

In order to become a technical writer you will have to have a pretty decent educational background. Most technical writers have a bachelor’s degree in Journalism, English or in a specific science related field such as Engineering. Many have advanced degrees as well. A technical writer can have a specific range of knowledge, such as engineering, or they may be able to write on a number of different subjects. Some people manage to jump into the world of technical writing without a degree, especially if they have past technical writing experience or if they graduate from a technical writing certification program.

Technical writers can work for a business or operate as freelancers. Getting a technical writing job can be tough, as competition is often very high. This means that you will want to have a mixture of education, past experience and some kind of edge over the competition, such as networking associates. If you wish to go freelance you will have to spend a good deal of time building up your reputation as a qualified technical writer. This is usually accomplished by created a portfolio and building a good list of clients.

Becoming a technical writer is not usually something you can do overnight. It requires a good set of listening, researching and writing skills as well as the desire to constantly learn and adapt. It is however a great way to earn a decent income if you enjoy writing.

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    • J.S.Matthew profile image

      JS Matthew 5 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

      Great Hub! I have been considering adding Technical writing to my Freelance writing business. I appreciate the information. I will bookmark this for later use. Voted Up and Useful!

      JSMatthew~

    • Magdelene profile image
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      Magdelene 5 years ago from Okotoks

      Thanks J.S., I think if a person has the skills in the field, there is money to be made from technical writing.

    • J.S.Matthew profile image

      JS Matthew 5 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

      My question is, how do you get started?

    • Magdelene profile image
      Author

      Magdelene 5 years ago from Okotoks

      I would recommend using one of the freelance sites as in freelance or Odesk or even Green articles, most of them have free to sign up plans and on top of that continue writing hubs to show samples of your work in your portfolio.

      There are all types of different categories which you can sign up to write under, some of the places have online testing and some have interviews via skype.

      You have to go with what you feel works for you. Does this help you out a bit?

    • J.S.Matthew profile image

      JS Matthew 5 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

      I am familiar with and have joined Elance and oDesk, to name a few. But I meant in regard to starting the writing process for a large project. I am more article related and am not sure if writing Tech papers would come natural to me. I should read some and then decide. Do you have any links to a good white page? I was always curious about them.

      JSMatthew~

    • Magdelene profile image
      Author

      Magdelene 5 years ago from Okotoks

      http://www.cs.columbia.edu/~hgs/etc/writing-style.... is a good article on technical writing, it is very detailed and some may find it a bit overwhelming but if we want to really make our mark with writing technical articles we need to follow many of the guidelines given

    • J.S.Matthew profile image

      JS Matthew 5 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

      Thanks for the link! I will check it out and see if its for me.

      JSMatthew~

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