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TECHNICAL WRITING
Easy read: Technical writing simplifies jargon for the lay person

Releasing a new version of your software' Developing a new product that needs a great user manual' To be happy with the results and ultimately save money, you should hire a technical writer.

Technical writers create documentation for technology. Their responsibility, like that of graphic designers, is to effectively communicate a message, by writing text that is helpful, accurate, readable and accessible. They should be adept at tackling topics that are unfamiliar and at analysing information to create a coherent document.

Technical writing simplifies jargon and renders complex technological procedures in a language that is accessible to the lay person through media such as user manuals or instruction brochures. Technical documents explain specific details that are not immediately obvious to the user.

What do I have to do'

Technical writing involves collaboration. It requires constant co-ordination with technical professionals, including programmers, project managers and technicians. Technical writers create documents such as user manuals, installation guides, troubleshooting guides, instruction booklets, quick reference guides, reports, policy manuals, process documentation, white papers, case studies and online guides.

Technical writing essentially involves organising information, putting it into user-friendly language, selecting graphics, writing sidebars and using a consistent format, checking back with experts to fill in blanks and ensuring that no errors have been made. High quality documentation enhances customer satisfaction levels. It also translates into lower support costs and creates favourable first purchase decisions.

What should I study'

Technical writers normally possess a mix of technical and language abilities. Thus, you should have a degree or diploma in areas such as computer science, telecommunications, journalism, communications, English (or another language) and management. You should have enough expertise to understand the documentís intended readers.

A good technical writer is someone who has a good knowledge of English, is comfortable working with computers, can understand a subject or solution or product and convey information in a simple language. A working knowledge of DTP tools (PageMaker), development tools (RoboHelp) and web tools (HTML and XML coding) is a definite advantage for an online environment. A basic knowledge of computer hardware, operating systems, software applications and programming languages is an added advantage.

What next'

The increasing use of IT in sectors like engineering, automotives, aeronautics, military, bioinformatics, medicine, mechanics and rocket science means that there is a greater demand today for qualified and skilled technical writers than ever before. The demand for such writers, especially those with expertise in economics, biotechnology and medicine, is expected to increase over the next few years.

Many technical writers migrate to the profession from jobs as programmers, lab technicians, research scientists or engineers. Others begin as trainees in an IT department, develop their writing and grammar skills and then move into full-time technical writing positions.

Though various industries need technical writers, the IT industry needs more of them than others. Every bit of software and hardware needs the support of technical writing in the form of help files and user manuals.

The electronics industry requires the services of technical writers for manuals that accompany their products. You can become a team leader, project leader, programme manager, knowledge manager, manager of documentation or publications and the director of documentation or publications. Some companies that employ technical writers are Microsoft, Oracle, Quark, Citibank, DigitalThink, Mastek, blueU.com and NetLife.

Where to study

  • Indian Statistical Institute, Bangalore.
  • Technowrites Private Limited, Pune.
  • S.A. International Limited, Chennai.
  • TASC Consulting Private Limited, Mumbai.
  • Technical Writers of India, Mumbai.
  • TechnoPoint, Bangalore.
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