Posted on

Do you have a technical writer’s personality?

Considering a career as a technical writer?

Want to know what kind of people enjoy technical writing the most? Would it suit your personality?

Is being introverted an advantage? Can jovial types make it as tech writers?

Yes and Yes.

Crag on Helpscribe makes the point that, “Personality can also have a strong influence on your ability to perform technical writing tasks. For example, a highly social writer will have a much easier time interviewing SMEs and contributing during meetings. A less social writer may have an easier time surviving as the sole writer on a project or staying focused and productive for long periods of time.”

While there is no one personality type for technical writing, after working in this field for twenty-three years, I can see some people do better than others. A lot has to do with what technical writers do every day, which isn’t all writing, by the way. A surprise for most new writers.

My typical technical writer’s day

If I look at my day, it’s:

  • Mostly spent alone, which I enjoy.
  • Chasing people for information by email. Many don’t have English at their first language.
  • Re-writing their text.
  • Organizing document reviews usually by email
  • Skype interviews with Dev
  • Technical tasks such as fixing the online help system
  • Developing documentation plans
  • Writing technical material
  • Attended meetings in person, over the phone/web

As you can see, there’s a mix of tasks.

I only spend 3 days a week actually writing. The other two are in meetings, workshops, reporting, email and other communication tasks.

  • Three days working alone
  • Two days working with others.

Even though I’m in a busy office, I tend to keep my head down and get through the work.

1.0      Technical writing personality traits

If you look at my typical technical writing day, you can see that I’ll need different skills. Some come naturally to me, such as enjoying working alone on technical things, others less so, such as workshops, which I often find talking shops – lots of chatter, no real benefit.

But let’s look at the personality traits.

1.1      Introverted writers

Many writers, in all fields, tend to be introverts. They enjoy the pleasure of being left alone to work on something, especially something with an intellectual angle, that gives them satisfaction. I can spend all day working alone and be as happy as a sandboy. But this has it’s downsides…

1.2      Extroverted writers

Surprisingly, many of the most successful writers, especially team leads, as very outgoing and social creatures. You can’t have a team of five introverts. You need a leader, someone who can motivate (gently bully J) the technical writers to hit the deadline.

From that angle, extroverts can have very successful careers in technical writing. Positions that require project management skills, working with Development, hiring/firing, are also need in tech pubs.

It’s also worth noting that the term ‘technical writing’ is misleading. A lot of your time as a technical writer is spend using developing content for web publishing, creating online help, and generating content for omni channels.

This is probably the big surprise for junior and new technical writers – how much time is spend on non-technical writing tasks.

1.3      Details

Every line I write is reviewed by another technical writer. Every line. Editing skills are crucial.

In some ways, I’m a better editor than writer. More on this in later posts.

As a technical writer, you can expect to spend many hours editing text.

You’ll get this text from emails, wiki pages, intranets, white boards and even on scraps of paper. You also have to edit your own work. This means you need to put on an Editor’s hat every week (or day) and not resent having to fix others text. A lot of technical writing is refining text.

I enjoy it. For me, it’s playing with works. How can I improve this line of text?

1.4      Patience

The trend towards outsourcing means that for many developers English isn’t their first language.

I mention this as you do need to be patient and understanding as you’ll often get text, for example, for release notes, which may be very difficult to understand. Your job is to make sense of this. This means refining the text and, where necessary, working with the developer to understand the issue better. It takes practice. Some technical writers struggle with this. They just want to write. But, your job isn’t just to write it’s to re-write what others have written.

So as well as writing and editing and reviewing you’re also translating. Again, I enjoy it. Not everyone does. Some resent it and feel it’s beneath them.

1.5      Interviewing skills

Let’s say you’re developing a new cutting edge product. Or you’ve joined a new company but have very little experience of their industry. You need to document it. Where do you start? You can get so far by reading white papers, technical guides, and blogs. At some point you need to talk to Developers, Business Analysts, and Project Owners.

This usually involves organizing workshops, one to one interviews, and small roundtables where you discuss the product, learn how it works, so you can start to write the conceptual materials. Good interviewing skills help you gather this material, develop a better understanding of the product, and build bridges with other teams.  Interviewing skills are, in my opinion, the most underrated skills in technical writing.

1.6      Determination

One of the biggest shocks for new technical writers is the amount of hunting they have to do to find information. They expect it to be there, wherever ‘there’ is. However, in most technical publication departments you need to be proactive and track down content. It could be on the web, on intranets, on wikis or, as if often the case, in someone’s head. But you have to get it. How you do it…

1.7      Summary

As you can see, there is no ‘one size fits all’ in technical writing. For example, Introverted and Extroverted writers both have their place. Both can play to their strengths and carve out careers that work for them. Saying that, you must love the details, have oodles of patience, Interviewing skills really do help and be determined.

Posted on

How to find technical writing work using Quora

Are you using Quora to find technical writing work?

Maybe you’ve never heard of Quora.

Here’s how it works.

Think of it as a deluxe ‘Question and Answer’ site focused on the business community.

A lot of influential people are there. It has almost no spam or nasty comments.

If you want to develop your business, Quora is an effective way to demonstrate your expertise and generate leads.

Like the X-Factor, it uses a voting system. The better your answer, the more votes it gets, the higher it ranks, the more links you get, and the more…

Tip – You can link out to other articles, which is what I often (though not always) do.

Here’s my answer to: How can I become a better writer.

On your Quora groups

Let’s look at how to establish yourself (your personal brand) on Quora

Join 10 groups. Make sure they complement your business goals.

Avoid distractions. More than 10 and you lose focus.

Ignore groups with low engagement.

Aim to be a top contributor on your Quora group. To do this, write the longest article you can. Twice as long as others in the group. Even if your article isn’t great, people tend to upvote long posts. I think they appreciate the effort. It looks epic!

Study discussions that have the most comments. See what makes the top post stand out. Make notes.

Write a Quora post about this. Write a Quora post that deliberately takes the opposite point of view. The contrarian angle often works as it evokes a response in others and they feel compelled to respond.

Where possible, include others by recommending their sites, books, or other works. Connecting with others (especially those who have a larger network) raises your profile and gets you on their radar.

When answering questions:

  1. Be selective. Answer one question a night.
  2. Provide more detail than anyone else.
  3. Use the inverted pyramid style when writing.
  4. Use lots of white space, short sentences, and bullet lists. Write to be scanned.
  5. Link to sites you recommend but not affiliates.
  6. Format and style your answer to stand out. Don’t just copy and paste from MS Word.
  7. Add images, slides, and videos.
  8. Aim to write the standout article.

On your Quora profile page

Use a nice, professional headshot.

Write the bio in a conversational style. Talk about how you’ve helped others in the past and look forward to helping others. Be open. Encourage the reader to learn more about you.

Don’t link to your blog homepage.

Instead, link to your About page. That’s where they can learn more about you. Include an email subscription form on your About page in two places, in the side bar and at the end of the page.

On your Quora blog page

You can create your own blog page on Quora. One of mine is at klariti.quora.com

Use this to repurpose content from your blog. I usually sprinkle in a few hundred new words to tailor it to the Quora readers.

Write original content related to the questions you’re answering.

Write ‘original’ content using the material from the question you answered. Avoid copy and pasting. Instead, write a short intro paragraph to put it in context, then a summary to wrap it up.

  • Write frequently. This helps develop your voice.
  • Watch this video on how to create a writing framework.
  • Find an interesting angle.
  • Write 10 x 250 word articles.
  • Don’t write about fads, Apple, Seth Godin… the usual.
  • Focus on potential customers: how can you help them save and make money.
  • Connect it to what you do as a technical writer.

Your Quora to do list

  • Study Quora.
  • Get the app.
  • Observe how others use it.
  • Scan posts during the day. Get a feel for what works.
  • Your aim is to build credibility.
  • Write exceptional answers that make you stand out.

Summary

Before you start. Have your LinkedIn profile, blog, and business web site ready.

When they arrive, offer them ebooks, reports, or checklists. Don’t let them leave empty handed.

If you can persuade them to join your email newsletter, even better.

More next week.

Posted on

How I use Twitter to find technical writing work

KB from London heard that I use Twitter to find work.

Like many of us, she thought Twitter was a waste of time and ignored it. Maybe we can change her mind.

How I use Twitter to find technical writing work

Here’s how I use it.

Create a twitter account for your business. Add a keyword into the title, for example, if you’re an accountant, call your twitter account @Accounting140 – accountancy tips in 140 characters.

Add links to your website in the profile. Add your business logo. It has to look professional. Go to oDesk and spend $100 on a nice new logo and design.

Learn how to create Twitter lists.

  • Create a list for people who have a lot of influence in your industry.
  • Create a list for people of your competitors.
  • Create a list for people who are generous, who retweet, and who are willing to help you if you help them.
  • Keep these lists private.

Next

Follow chats. Do a Google search for twitter chats related to your industry. Add the date to your calendar.

Ask questions. This works very well. Others are promoting themselves too hard. Instead, you ask questions about your line of business and help others.

Add one hashtag to every post/question. Don’t over do it.

Next

Do Searches. Here’s an example. Type the following into Twitter.

Excel ?

This returns tweets related to Excel from people with questions.

Question  = problems.

Change the text.

Excel pivot ?

Excel export ?

Excel freeze ?

Then answer these questions. If you have a site, send them there.

This works very well and takes little effort.

If you do this every day for ten minutes:

People start to follow you.

People add your account to their, usually public, lists.

They start asking you questions.

You’re seen as an expert. You can encourage them to visit your site, see your services, and connect.

Ten minutes a day. Try it.

Posted on 7 Comments

Who Makes More Money? Technical Writers with Language or IT Skills?

money

Kai raised an interesting point about which skill (writing or technical) takes longer to master.

Knowing how to structure and present information to users? Or knowing how to use a product or application? That got me thinking. If you want to make money as a technical writer, which area should you focus on?

Sharpen your writing skills or deepen your technical knowledge, for example, learning how to document an API?

Which Technical Writers Makes The Most Money

I think there is more money if you have deep technical knowledge rather than strong writing skills.

Kai’s point is, “…it’s always been easier and faster to learn a product/app. So knowing about structuring and presenting information has been the more valuable skill in a writer – and the rarer one, too, that’s much harder to learn from colleagues!

So I agree with David: “… it’s easier for a good non-technical writer with an interest in technology to become a good technical writer, than it is for a good engineer to become one.”

… and with Ivan, that writers can make up deficiencies with interest: “… if someone has an interest in sharing how the technology works, then they will go the extra mile…”

I think the real issue is this:  Which skill takes longer to master?

I have to admit, that’s a very good way of looking at it. I hadn’t actually thought of it in those terms.

  • My take is that it’s easier to develop language/writing skills… or at least to develop them to a level where you can perform your duties as a technical writer.
  • With technology it’s more complex as (at least for me) I’m always learning. Even in areas where I have considerable knowledge, I still find that I’m learning and finding better ways of doing things.
  • When I started out my writing skills were rather ‘unsophisticated’ and that’s being kind. But, I knew how to program (Cobol, C, Fortran) and landed some nice contracts as a results. Writers with much better qualifications weren’t even considered.

I think there is more money if you have deep technical knowledge rather than strong writing skills.

What do you think?

Posted on 4 Comments

Stephen King Can Make You A Better (Technical) Writer

Scott, over on Words on a Page, says, “If you want to improve as a writer, you not only need to write. You need to read. Writing and reading are two sides of the same coin. You need to do both to achieve your potential.”

I head downtown most weekends and buy 2 or 3 books, mostly business, history and some fiction.

Every so often I run out of options (we’re in Beijing) and get something I usually wouldn’t buy, for example, Iain M Banks. Reading outside my comfort zone stretches me. I encounter writing styles, opinions, and  information that I usually side-step.

Scott adds that by reading, ‘you’re exposing yourself to different voices and viewpoints. And you can pick up some new techniques. Not only that, you get a great opportunity to see what other writers are doing well and what they’re doing badly.’ This brings me to dear ol’ Stephen King.

How Stephen King Made Me A Better Technical Writer

I’ve read Stephen King (on and off) since I was a teenager-almost 30 years. After going through Jack London, King Arthur and HG Wells, he was the first modern author that I read.

What did I like most?

The tension, crisp writing and little details that sucked you right in. You had to read on. Would Cujo eat the small child? Most of this was horror, something I grew out of after high school.

But he also wrote another book, On Writing.

If you’re interested in the mechanics of writing, get your hands on this. For me, it’s his best book — and I wish he’d go back and read it.

Why?

Because it teaches you how to write tight prose, remove the waffle, and stay focused. All the things I try to do as a technical writer.I hope he’ll turn a corner someday which is why I give him so many second chances…

What am I reading now?

I tend to mix and match. I have a stack of books next to my bed and dip in and out.

Some are:

  • Groundswell, Social Media book
  • Built to Last – what makes companies success over the long term
  • Stephen King – Duma Key, really lame, especially after his early stuff
  • Graham Greene is always a pleasure. Our Man in Havana is a favorite
  • Plato’s Apology
  • Genghis Khan bio, life in ancient Mongolia
  • Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale
  • Iain M Banks – pretentious drivel! I had such high hopes. Philip K Dick is the best sci-fi writer for me.
  • Catch 22 – ok, bit dated
  • Al Ries, Focus and the 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing
  • Tom Peters, Peter Drucker and Seth Godin are all there too.

Seth’s writing style is, for me, the best out there right now, at least in the business world. Tight, crisp, and funny. No words wasted.

I rarely buy magazines anymore as most are close to 5 euro in Europe. Instead I pony with the difference and get some books.

How about you? What are you reading?

Posted on 6 Comments

A Day in the Life of a Home-Based Technical Writer

Thinking of starting a career as a Technical Writer? I’ve worked in Technical Writing for over fifteen years, mostly as a freelancer. Here’s an outline of a typical day when working from home.

FYI – I wrote this last thing at night, so the grammar may not be perfect. But, it will give you an idea of what’s involved if you’re thinking of moving into technical communications.

A Day in the Life of a Home Based Technical Writer

My day starts at 6.05 and finishes around11pm. I’m online 7 days a week. How do I survive? I often wonder, myself…

A little background

I’ve been in technical writing for 15 years. I remember when Windows was just, you guessed it, little windows. I started with Aldus PageMaker, before Adobe bought it, and then moved onto Corel and other DTP packages.

After leaving theUK, I moved toSacramento, different parts ofCalifornia, then back toAmsterdam,Dublin,London(again), thenShanghai, and nowBeijing. I also work inIreland.

Ok, so that’s me.

Technical Setup for Writing

Technical writing in your pajamas. Well, maybe not actually in my pajamas — does anyone still buy these? — I do work from home.

Here’s my technical setup:

  • LG pc – this is souped up to the gills. I have it assembled when inShanghaiand it has oodles of memory, hard drives, etc. It has never crashed!
  • 1st Dell laptop – super large (too big, to be honest) with Visio, Adobe FrameMaker and other tech document stuff.
  • 2nd Dell laptop for light surfing

Finding Freelance Technical Writing Work

How I get work? Three ways: referrals, legacy customers and consultancy.

Tip #1 Long standing customers is where the money is.

Chasing new leads/projects etc is a fool’s game. There may be short term gains, but in the long run (e.g. when a recession kicks in) it’s your ‘old reliables’ that keep things ticking over.

New referrals come in all the time. But these can be problematic. People want, for example, web-based  help  written up.

No problem?

But they don’t have the product ready yet, so you can’t see what needs to be documented.

Or they think the  specs/screens etc may change in mid-project. Will this change the price?

Or they want you to use Flash to develop a knowledge-base. Why not use SQL? They like Flash; it’s cool.

You can waste a lot of time with these type of customers. We call them ‘tyre-kickers’ at home. They want to buy the car, but never get past the tyre kicking stage.

Technical Writing Consultancy

This is a mix. People want advice on tool to use, need a fresh set of eyes to check a document set, interview junior tech writers or partner them on a new project.

This is happening quite a bit.  Say a web developer is going for a project (e.g. bidding for a contract) and needs a web writer/technical writer onboard. I sign up as the partner and do the documents when they come on-stream.

If you link up with reliable partners, this can be a nice little earner. So, what’s my day like.

Home Based Technical Writer- Typical working day

6.05

Alarm goes off at 6.00. Snooze. Up at 6.05.

I have 40 min to check email before the family wake up. Remember most of my clients are in theUS, so it’s their afternoon. This 40 min is often the most frantic time of the day. Someone somewhere has a problem – it’s always urgent – and I have less than half an hour to fix it. Once the crew get up, it’s just not possible. We live in a v nice apt — but there is no hiding place.

Check Email

I have 5 email addresses. I get between 40-120 emails per day. The highest was 700 when I got spammed.

  • I check the business emails in order of priority.
  • Business 1, Business 2, and then Business 3.
  • I scan each box, delete  junk, open what’s left. Many of my responses are 1-2 lines.

Tip #2

When writing emails, use numbered lists to break-out the message, e.g.

  1. To convert the Adobe FrameMaker files I need the source files by Tuesday.
  2. I will need the graphics by Monday inTIFformat
  3. It will be ready by Thursday
  4. The price is 300 USD
  5. Who do I invoice? What’s their email address?

When answering emails, use lists to break out each answer. The reason I do this is that people will often answer the first question and skip the others. Then you have to chase them for the other information. Time is money when you work for yourself. Structure your emails so that it’s easier for customers (and potential customers) to give you all the information you need in one go.

Tip #3 – I NEVER check Yahoo or Gmail before the business emails are finished.

Food. Porridge with walnuts & soybean mix to start. A quick look at the clock and I see how much I can do before their alarm goes off.

Tip #4

Many emails are similar.

“I’ve lost a file, can you make a conf call, how much do you charge etc.”

To speed things up, I have a text file (no formatting) with the answers to the most common queries.

This saves hours every month. They all need to be modified to so degree but the bones of the response is there. Fingers crossed that I get the real urgent stuff taken care off before…

6.45

Lights on and they’re awake!

As I’m already pumped up (terrible isn’t it?) I rally the troops and get things moving. One of the downsides of micro-managing your business (depending on how you look at it, I guess) is that it tends to spill over to your home life — everything becomes a task, a deadline, a target.  I try to lighten up. Sometimes we’re late for school. It’s fine.

Eat, shower, shave, arrange school bag, find missing sneaker, feed goldfish, coax pet crickets from their sleep/suspended animation and we’re off on the school run. Get back by 8.

School day are long inAsia(7.30 – 4.45 most days) so I get a good amount done. InEuropethis was more of a problem as we had endless teacher training days, mid-term, bank hols etc. Here, it’s go, go, go.

8.00

2 coffees, toast, soccer news, yahoo etc and then close them all at 8.15.

I take lots of ‘mini breaks’ thru the day but keep them all to 10 min or so.

Tip #5 Close the web browser and email. Otherwise, I’m peaking all the time. I know myself. Stay focused.

8.15

I work in short bursts between 8.15 and 11.

I use an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of my projects. It’s very simple. Nothing fancy. When under pressure, or knowing that I’m sliding, I print it out as a reminder.

“This is what you have to do, Ivan.”

Tip #6 Working by/for yourself is like dealing with a child. You have to be patient and firm. Little treats and threats both seem to works.

And I reward myself!

When things go well I splurge on a book that I usually wouldn’t buy. Steven Pinker, the Language Instinct is my next treat. Expensive over here.

Setting up interviews

I interview people for this site; it’s one of the most popular sections. Low-tech viral marketing.

I enjoy these interactions as it gives me a chance to meet others, by email and Skype admittedly, and get some insights into how they work.

You think you know so much. But then when you talk to others, you realize, there are so many areas you need to catch up on.

Tip #7

I started writing the questions for this interview at 9.25 (Emails took from 7.55-9.15. Much longer than I thought) and finished at 10.10.

But, here’s the thing.

How should I send it to him? Email, word, on the net?

The Word document I used was pretty bland. Ok, but not much else.

So, I spend 15 min formatting the document (actually tweaking my invoice template). Now it looks 10 x better.

Tip #8

If you want to succeed as a consultant/freelancer etc, you have to go the extra yard ALLTHE TIME. There is so much competition out there, you really have to stand out.

My work varies. This week it involves:

  • Writing standard operating procedures
  • Converting documents from Word to Adobe FrameMaker
  • Creating templates
  • Business process work.

Visio is by far my fav tool; creating process maps, state chart diagrams, flowcharts etc is a doddle.

Like I said earlier, I work in short bursts. Maybe 20-30 min and then stop.

It’s important to stand up, get away from the pc and stretch.  Most technical writers end up suffering from lower back, next and eye problems. Which brings us nicely to….

11.00

I have a choice: swim or run.

My aim is to burn up 500 calories per day. I alternate between the thread-mill (even though I hate to run) and the pool (where I love the freezing cold water – the colder the better. BRRRR).

Tip #9

Small Observation

Some of my clearest thinking is in the pool. Maybe this is the only time I really can reflect on the business. No questions, phones, to-do lists. I now carry a small notebook and jot down ideas that pop up.

Chris Brogan mentioned that when on a cruise in Mexico, he had very clear insights  into where he should take his business.

So, while I go swimming too get away from work, oddly enough these are often my most ‘fruitful’ hours. But remember: write it down. Otherwise, it’s gone.

12

This is part 2 of my day; the halfway point.

From here until 4.38 (I leave on the dot) I continue to work on project

but…

I find it hard to kick-start so soon after the gym/pool. To get around this, I do graphic, diagrams, videos  etc. Visual work is a nice counter-balance to the writing.

Tip #10

I know I’m not the greatest technical writer in the world. But my documents LOOK great.

This is something to consider if you plan to go freelance. The accuracy, quality etc of your material is one thing (arguably the most important) but the packaging makes a huge difference.

I’ve seem people’s eyes light up when they saw a really sharp user guide land on their desk.

Tip #11

Use high-quality paper for the Cover Page if you’re going to give it to the boss. Even if you have to buy it yourself, do it. It feels good.

When you’re a consultant, people like to feel you’re worth the money.

Don’t go cheap. You can claw back the pennies elsewhere.

4.38

School run. Literally.

5.05

Back at the PC.

Work until 7ish or whenever dinner is ready.

Go swim (again) with junior, or cycle, walk, dvd, draw, whatever until bedtime.

9.00

Back at the PC.

Work until 11ish.

The last lap is light admin activities, Snagit work, and planning for tomorrow.

I try to avoid writing technical docs late in the evening as it takes too much brain power. The next day, I’m shattered.

Say goodnight to the crickets, gold-fish, lock the door and then off to bed with a book. Tonight I’m reading Margey Allingham, the Coroner’s Pidgin. Wonderful turn of phrase and great story lines.

Check that the alarm is set.

That’s it!

How many hours a day do you work as a freelance technical writer? What’s the hardest part of the job?

Posted on

How Technical Writers Can Move Further Up The Food Chain

Do you feel loved? Many technical writers feel unloved. They feel they don’t get the respect they deserve. I hear this on LinkedIn and Facebook: “people don’t respect the work I do.” Well, if that’s the case, here are a few ways to get more respect and move into a more rewarding career. Continue reading How Technical Writers Can Move Further Up The Food Chain

Posted on 12 Comments

Who Makes More Money – Technical Writers with Language or Technical Skills?

Which of these would you hire to join your Technical Writing Dept? Someone with great writing skills but little technical knowledge or, for example, a Computer Science graduate with deep technical knowledge but average writing skills?  We’ve been talking about this on LinkedIn and here are some thoughts.

Why Writing Skills Are More Important

  • Technical writing is about writing.  Words are the foundation upon which the rest is built.
  • If you don’t have the writing skills, then regardless of how well you know the application, you can’t explain how it works.
  • Your ability to drill down and describe complex functions may be beyond your grasp.
  • To resolve this involves arranging sessions & workshops with developers, IT architects etc, all of which cost time/money.
  • If writing skills were not necessary, programmers could write the user guides! Ever see a well-written user guide from a 22 year old Java developer? There are exceptions but…
  • Technical writing is about communication. Technical writers are trained to interview people and extract the relevant information.  Of course, listening skills are not exclusive to technical writers but many (that I know) feel they grasp the importance of this more than others.
  • Writing skills give you the tools to communicate – and to help/teach others to communicate.

FYI – One of the trends I see in Tech Comms, is the changing role of the Technical Writer / Technical Communicator into an educator, facilitator, and becoming the central point of contact for technical information distribution (i.e. technical information coordination).

The counter argument is as follows.

Why Technical Skills Are More Important

  • Technical knowledge is the starting point. You need to know how the system works, otherwise all the writing skills in the world may be of little use. If you don’t know what it actually does, what can you begin to write?
  • Most ‘non-technical’ technical writers (e.g. graduates with English degrees) waste/take up developers’ time asking questions about how the application works, instead of actually generating content. While there is some leeway here with new technologies, developers have their own deadlines and can’t be expected stop coding to explain the innards to the application.
  • Those with technical skills can hit the ground running – it’s the responsibility of the Technical Editor to refine the text.
  • Those with technical skills know which questions to ask. As they understand the application/industry/codebase they can ask the hard questions that ‘non technical’ writers would not see in the first place.

Which would you hire?

If you were running a technical writing dept, which type of person would you hire?

A technical writer with strong technical skills, but prone to the occasional typo, or someone with perfect grammar, sound writing skills, but low on technical knowledge?

PS – you can connect with me on LinkedIn here – http://www.linkedin.com/in/ivanwalsh

Posted on 14 Comments

7 Ways for Technical Writers to Re-invent Themselves & Demonstrate their Value

You’ve just been fired. The Technical Writing Dept is closed. What do you do?  This is a fact of life for many people today. Indeed, there is now a real fear that US technical writers will continue to lose their jobs to offshore companies, e.g. India & Poland. And it’s true; it’s the shape of things to come, I’m afraid. But rather than moan about it, let’s look at what you can do to re-invent yourself and find new, lucrative opportunities. Continue reading 7 Ways for Technical Writers to Re-invent Themselves & Demonstrate their Value

Posted on

Does your technical writing have an accent?

Maybe you don’t hear your accent, but others do. When you read their documents, does the accent come through? Continue reading Does your technical writing have an accent?

Posted on 4 Comments

Are technical documents a waste of time?

“Don’t worry” she said. “No one reads this stuff anyway. Just get it done.” Sounds familiar? Continue reading Are technical documents a waste of time?

Posted on

How to Write a Target Audience Questionnaire

Creating a training plan? Before you do this, you need to step a step back and work out what your colleagues need to learn. Continue reading How to Write a Target Audience Questionnaire

Posted on

Can Outsourcing Help Your Technical Writing Career?

Daily rates for Technical Writers
Image by Ivan Walsh via Flickr

Most technical writers see outsourcing as a real threat. But, if you look at it from another angle, it’s one huge business opportunity.

Continue reading Can Outsourcing Help Your Technical Writing Career?