Posts with the Tag: technical writing
When you were in school, you had to write papers that were a certain page count, no matter if you ran out of things to say on page one or page ten of twenty. You simply babbled on about something that was related to the topic and you hoped it would work in your favor. Things are different online.
As you think about today’s online readers, you realize they don’t want to read a twenty-page missive about your newest product. They don’t have the time or their smartphone doesn’t display entire webpages easily. People want to learn more in less time. Your writing should keep this in mind – regardless if it’s copywriting or technical writing.
Technical writing has gotten a bad reputation for being boring. Many people have found documentation to be dry, uninspired, and textbook-like. (And, to be fair, sometimes it is.) Now, this isn’t a bad thing, but it’s certainly enough to keep people away from reading this type of writing. But there are reasons why those who consider it boring should reconsider.
Technical writing can certainly be a process of learning the skills through a course from a university or going to a conference. But using hypothetical situations isn’t as effective as putting technical writing skills into use. At Northwestern State University, students are learning about writing technical documentation while building robots.
Surprisingly, the course in which students are learning about technical writing isn’t a technical course or a technology class. They’re learning in an English class, building their technical writing skills with each step of the robot-making process.
Why does this process work to teach skills? According to the instructor, Ramey Prince, students learn because:
The job hunt is on everyone’s mind – whether you’re looking for work or not. So, what is the outlook for technical writing jobs?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the technical writing job market seems to be growing, and it comes as no surprise to those who already use technical writers in their business.
According to the BLS…
The latest figures posted for technical writers are:
- 2010 Median Pay: $63,280 per year or $30.42 per hour
- Entry-Level Education: Bachelor’s degree
- Work Experience in a Related Occupation: 1 to 5 years
- On-the-job Training: Short-term on-the-job training
- Number of Jobs, 2010: 49,500
- Job Outlook, 2010-20: 17% (About as fast as average)
- Employment Change, 2010-20: +8,500
Once upon a time, James Erwin was writing software manuals in Des Moines, Iowa. An everyday technical writer, he spent his days trying to ensure that information could be easily used and digested by the reader. Until something happened. And that ‘something’ was social networking.
As James Erwin was commenting about a movie online, his comments received so many responses that he got noticed online. He was offered a job writing a screenplay and had to quit his technical writing job. So, the question becomes, can technical writing skills help to foster a career in another field of writing – like script writing?
While the battle of the sexes continues, a new revelation might begin another discussion. According to some, women are dominating technical writing, but is this because they’re women…or is it for some other reason? Let’s look at what it takes to create a strong technical writing piece and how that might support this new argument.
For the audience out there interested in learning something new, the technical writer needs to remember that not everyone learns in the same way. While you might be able to learn from a piece of paper, others might need to hear the information, while others may learn best from pictures. But can you please everyone? Should you?
The Picture of Learning
What you might not realize is that visual instructions can be just as confusing as they can be enlightening for some. While you might need to see a picture, others might be stressed out by the instructions when they see them in a video or in an animated way. So, a compromise needs to be reached in some way.
A common trouble with technical writing is the ability of the writer to connect to the end user. Because many technical writers are already experts in the field, they might not be able to approach the information from a completely new perspective, leaving readers feeling lost or confused.
But there are many ways in which a technical writer can ensure the writing addresses the thinking ability of the reader. Here are just a few:
We all have goals in our lives, but what does technical writing have to do with goal setting?
Though the term ‘goal setting’ might not be used, the practice of setting goals can help clarify the ideas being presented in a document, and having a goal can make sure the writing stays on track.
SMART Goals Applied to Technical Writing
Using a common goal setting strategy – SMART – here is how technical writing can be made more effective:
While you might already be an expert in technical writing, there is always someone else who is better informed (assuming you’re not the leading expert, of course) on the inner workings of what you’re documenting. These people are called subject matter experts (SME) and they’re an invaluable resource when you’re looking to create the most accurate documentation possible.
Where to Find Subject Matter Experts