The Knowledge of the Translator

How to Become a Technical Writer?

As in any profession, being a technical writer has many challenges. Technical writing is more detailed than merely understanding and writing technical information about a product. The real challenge is to systematically simplify complex information and make it accessible to everyone. To do this, you must know how you will do it and practice a lot.

What Is Technical Writing?

Although installation, usage, and maintenance guides first come to mind, the Society for Technical Communication defines technical writing internationally and broadly as follows:

  • It is the transfer of information requiring technique and expertise on special topics such as PC and mobile applications, medical procedures, or environmental regulations.
  • It is the transfer of information using technologies such as websites, utility files, or social media.
  • The task is to turn “how-to” information into instructions, no matter how technical it is or what technology is required to compile and publish the information.

Therefore, technical writing is the art of combining information into a specific format for a specific audience and purpose of use. You convey detailed information, regardless of the type of technical text you write.

How Does Technical Text Writing Progress?

It may sound surprising, but planning is the most time-consuming stage in the process of writing technical texts. You must first make a plan, then start writing, and finally review, revise, and edit what you have written. The revision phase is just as important as the other stages, as it determines whether the technical content is accurate and accessible. Now, let's examine these phases one by one.

Project Creation in Technical Writing

Project planning begins as soon as you are asked to write the technical text. An employer, client, or colleague will initiate this phase. More specifically, this is the person who will ask you to write a technical text. You must receive the following information from the person who sent you such a request: document type, subject, content, purpose of the content or document, and target audience. These may not all be explicitly defined at first. Even the client may not have told you exactly what she or he needs. It is important to determine project details through communication, as information must be clearly stated to start the first step in technical writing. In this manner, you can create a well-planned technical writing project.

Reader Analysis in Technical Writing

Upon receiving a request for technical writing, you should have the information stated above clarified and determine the target audience, the most important factor in technical writing. The reader is a factor that a technical writer must always keep in mind, because the reader guides the content and technical writing style. In fact, when you finish writing a technical text and move to the revision phase, you edit and rearrange the text by reading it as if you were the reader.

Understanding the User

You must collect information about the people who will use the document to understand whom you need to write the technical text for. It is important that you know the technical knowledge level and expertise of the target audience and whether the subject is a completely new concept for them. For example, you may write technical texts for surgeons targeted to use a newly released surgical product, for general users expected to use a hairdryer, or for pharmacists expected to recommend a newly introduced drug and guide the user.

Each audience has its own needs and expectations from the technical text you will write. After determining the target audience, think about what that audience wants to see as soon as they receive the document. Audience expectations shape the entire text, as technical document should give the audience exactly what they expect.

You should ask the following questions to understand the audience for your technical text:

  • Who is the audience?
  • What does the audience want to learn?
  • Where will the reader read the technical text?
  • When will the reader read the technical text?
  • Why will the reader read the technical text?
  • Under what conditions will the reader read the technical text?

Only when you answer these questions can you start writing the technical text.

User Experience

Now that you have identified the target audience, you must make sure that all the technical texts will be useful for users and serve their purpose. Technical writers often make the mistake of ignoring how and under which conditions the original audience will use the technical text. When you start writing technical texts, you should consistently look back and review your text. You should make sure the text is appropriate for the user, determining whether it is appropriate for the time and conditions in which the user will use it and whether the user can quickly find what he or she is looking for in the text.

Technical Documentation Planning

Unplanned technical information appears complex. What is the main subject of the document? Which topics will be included in the document in this main subject? How will these topics be sorted? How will you write the first part of the document? How will the topics be sorted? You should answer these questions and prepare the main plan for the technical text. Using the mind mapping programs on the market for this sort of work will considerably speed up the process.

Expert Consultation

Technical writers are not expected to know all technical information. Technical writers are generally familiar with the subject, know the necessary technical information needed, and know how to access this information. They don’t have to be experts on the subject but should have superior language skills and knowledge. It is occasionally critical for technical writers to consult experts. When necessary, experts can provide key information that will make the technical text more useful and accurate for the end user. If you want to produce well-established technical texts, don’t ignore expert opinions before writing and stay in touch with experts throughout the writing process.

The technical texts you may be asked to write could be in different subjects and fields. We can generally list these as follows: Information, analysis, technical reports with instructions and recommendations such as technical reports and manuals including the stages of a company's production process; instructions on how to use a device or a program; company policies; technical proposals; specifications; specifications giving information on different subjects such as product design, materials, production, packaging process; manuals, guidelines, and handbooks, and Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs).

Technical Writing Style

Your writing style in technical writing should always be simple, direct, and neutral. The texts you produce must be clear and must not mislead the reader with secondary meanings. Sentences should be fluent. No matter what the technical text is about, your style should be official and professional. We can list these as follows:

  1. Use active rather than passive verbs in your sentences to make it easier to understand.
  2. Avoid words that may have multiple meanings, and use technical terms related only to the relevant field.
  3. Place stages and steps in your text, as users refer to technical texts to learn what to do and how to do it.
  4. Always write the most important information first.
  5. Add warnings in a manner that draws attention.
  6. Break up and simplify sentences instead of writing long sentences that contain numerous clauses.
  7. Avoid using jargon if you are writing for a general audience. Using jargon will limit your technical text to a certain audience. Use jargon only if each member of the target audience will understand it.
  8. Use present tense, unless another tense must be used.
  9. Use images supporting instructions, or write technical content supporting the images given to you.
  10. The format of the technical text should be consistent and clear throughout the document.
  11. If a technical text template is provided, use it. If not, examine texts of similar types, and create a template.
  12. Support your technical text with charts and diagrams.
  13. Don’t misspell words, and follow grammar rules strictly. Your technical texts will reach a large audience and will most likely represent a company. Because technical texts are highly accessible and influence reputation, they must be flawless.

Technical Revision

So you completed your technical text writing project and made sure that there were no language errors in the technical document. But, are you sure the content from a technical perspective? In the final stage, you should examine the text from the beginning and from the user’s perspective, because the main target of entire project is the people who will use the text.

Remember, technical writing requires familiarity and practice in addition to having all this information. If you want to become a master at technical writing, don’t hesitate to read user manuals. You shouldn't consider prospectuses unnecessary pieces of paper. Maybe even the brief instructions taped to the back of your shampoo bottle are trying to tell you something.

Keywords: technical text, writing technical texts, technical writing, technical documentation, technical document writing, technical writer, Turkish technical writing, English, technical writing, Germen technical writing, French technical writing, Italian technical writing, Spanish technical writing, Arabic technical writing

References: Wikipedia, Instructional Solutions, Coursera, Amazon

Written By: Burcu Demirörs

Publishing Date: 07/20/2019

Target Audience: All Translators, Students in the Department of Translation Studies, Beginners in Translation, Translators Looking for Ways to Improve Themselves

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