Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Writing Profession Series- Technical Writers

This week I am focusing on Technical Writers. Unfortunately I couldn't drum up multiple technical guests to make an appearance on the blog this week, but I do have lots of info gleaned from the Internet. Yes, I'm a geek. My guest will be me: Landra Graf!
I'm keeping this to the 3 C's and hope that others will chime in on the comments if you have questions or additional knowledge.

A technical writer is defined as: a professional writer who designs, creates, and maintains technical documentation. Technical documents include online help, user guides, design specifications, system manuals, and other documents.

Technical writing is usually synonymous with technological fields like engineering, information design and information architecture. A little known fact is that technical writing can also include education and employee training. Specific qualifications usually include having at least associates degree, but it's not required. What is required is an active knowledge about the business you are producing the writing for, the ability to take constructive criticism, and effective communication skills. Honestly though a degree in English, Creative Writing, or Journalism doesn't hurt.

Now to the guest blogger-- Me!
I have been a technical writer for almost 3 years. Honestly, I stumbled into my current job, which at first involved cooking food- a lot of food! Then I found out that my job included creating detailed, step-by-step, instructions to tell people how to prepare these types of foods on certain pieces of equipment. My job involved designing the format in which the information would be presented and typing up the instructions. Within 6 months the position took a different turn and now I develop instructions for food and any other items that are presented by clients. Unfortunately due to confidentiality and the nature of my job I can't go into any more specifics. Technical writing is not difficult for me, as I have a natural talent for seeing things in steps. Being an aspiring author doesn't hurt either, as I have a knack for coming up with ways to explain things in simple or complex terms. The job is rewarding and offers a significant amount of freedom. The single most important ability is communication! If you are a not a clear and concise communicator then technical writing is not for you. Too many times mistakes are made when someone does not relay all the details clearly. In technical writing success is in the details! P.S. I don't have a writing degree... I have a marketing degree!
Hopefully this blog will give you plenty to think about. Technical writing is a super fun job when you find the right one. The field is vast and in certain cases the positions are unique. I have seen multiple types of technical writing jobs posted on the Internet for writing toy manuals, education books, user guides for appliances and all sorts of neat things.
Hit me up with questions if you want to know more.
*Outside sources include Wikipedia and

Next Week I'll be cover: Proposal Writers
Till then!


  1. I've written user-friendly software manuals, which I LOVED doing; worked as an instructional designer, which I didn't love quite as much; and have created online help for software using both RoboHelp (remember the old popup help files that you could also download?) and HTML (I had more fun creating help web pages via HTML). So I've had some rather good experiences doing technical writing.

    But the reason I tell everyone I know that I hate technical writing is because of a short stint as a freelancer with a major phone company. I was supposedly hired to manage an internal marketing campaign but got shunted over into helping the technical team complete a ton of documentation. The actual writing was mind-numbing because of the topic: billing software and training. On top of that, there was tedious indexing and extremely strict and formal documentation procedures. While I recognize the importance of strict and formal processes for creating, maintaining and updating technical content, I prefer to color outside the lines if I think it will make for a better user experience. I am sooooo not a process person.

    The only thing I can think must be worse than creating documentation under such strict, process-driven guidelines would be creating legal documentation. Ugh. (Apologies to anyone who enjoys either -- different strokes, and all.)

    Landra, it sounds like you lucked into one of the fun technical writing fields where you have a chance to demonstrate some creativity, perhaps as much in the way the content is presented as the content itself. Hurray for finding such a great-sounding job!

  2. Phoenix thanks for the great insight on this! I would have to agree with you that technical writing is tedious and you have to enjoy processes to love the work.

    Another fun fact, I write a lot of the same stuff over and over. After 3 years on the same company laptop some of the keys on the board have been worn down lol!