A certain set of skills is required for technical writing, just as every profession requires them. The job traditionally involved mainly writing and illustration skills, as large manuals were a standard part of the job description. In the last half of the 20th century and the first half of this century, communications and technology have undergone dramatic changes.
Qualities of a Technical Writer
Some of the major skills set (Qualities) that is required by the Technical Writer are as follows:
Writing Skills ( Skills related to writing) :
Technical writers need to write clearly and concisely in order to convey information to a variety of audiences. Their writing skills must never be underestimated.
Technical Skills (Competencies in technical areas) :
Depending on the topic, product or service they are documenting, technical writers’ skill sets are greatly influenced. The skills technical writers need to possess are different for hardware and software documentation. As pharmaceuticals and other manufacturing industries have unique requirements, the technical writer must also be familiar with them.
To create a developer’s guide, a technical writer may require a basic understanding of programming languages, whereas to document a weapons defense system, he or she may need a lot of knowledge of engineering and government documentation standards.
Tools Skills (Skill in using tools) :
To produce documentation in a variety of formats, a technical writer must be familiar with computer systems. To produce its technical documents, the organization can use a wide variety of tools, such as Adobe FrameMaker, MS Word, MadCap Flare, RoboHelp, PageMaker, Quark, etc. However, technical writers are sensitive to learning because it is what they do, and they are generally able to adapt to new tools fairly quickly.
Interviewing and listening skills (How to conduct an interview and listen) :
To be able to write well about technical topics, writers must be able to ask questions. To understand how to approach subject matter experts, or SMEs, they must understand their different personalities and preferences. Once the technical writer has identified the appropriate SME to approach, they will need strong listening skills to gather the necessary information and decide which follow-up questions to ask.
Design skills (Competencies in design) :
Technical writers must be able to appreciate the visual as part of their skill set. Technical documents haven’t always been merely written down. It is becoming increasingly important for technical writers to be able to use graphics and formatting skills as well as illustration skills. These skills can be extremely basic or very advanced, depending on the organization’s requirements.
Testability and usability skills:
Moreover, technical writers may be asked to perform usability tests and usability assessments. In order to ensure the product works according to its documentation, the technical writer knows how important it is to validate the documentation. User Experience teams in some organizations include technical writers as integral members.
Depending on a technical writer’s experience and educational background, the skill sets of technical writers vary widely. These skills are just a small part of what a technical writer brings to the table. Organizations are increasingly outsourcing their technical writing needs as roles change within the organization. There are many challenges, costs, and time constraints associated with finding a technical writer who has the right skills.