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Technical Writing 101: 360 Guide on How to Start your Technical Writing Journey

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Victor Fawole
ยทJan 4, 2023ยท

9 min read

Technical Writing 101: 360 Guide on How to Start your Technical Writing Journey

Photo by Green Chameleon on Unsplash

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You might have the impression that writers are born. But no, they are made!

Writing is a skill you can learn, sharpen, and master through consistent practice over time. All it takes is good resources to learn and to write and read what other writers have written constantly.

Lisa See says, "reading a thousand books will make your words flow like a river".

Are you a lover of emerging technologies, someone who likes to explain things in a way that even a 6-year-old baby can understand? Or are you a developer who loves to share ideas and teach people via written content? Then technical writing is for you. So, let's get started!

What Makes a Technical Writer?

A technical writer is a person who writes company documents such as user manuals, reference guides, business plans, legal disclaimers, operating procedure guides, white papers, and specialized product descriptions.

Many people often think that only a person who writes code in an article is a technical writer, and that kind of belief is not accurate. A technical writer is a person who breaks down complex topics or concepts or writes a tutorial guide in any field to make it understandable for readers or users.

What is the Goal of a Technical Writer?

A technical writer aims to help readers fully understand a highly complex procedure or topic. To accomplish this, technical writers must be well-versed in the subject matter they are about to write on.

A technical writer, for example, can write on ZKEVM, Solidity, Angular.JS, or any other technical topic to make it understandable to readers.

What is Technical Writing?

Technical writing means communicating or conveying one's ideas, views, instructions, and suggestions more logically, technically, and professionally.

According to Grammar, technical writing means the author is writing about a specific subject that requires direction, teaching, or explanation.

This writing style differs significantly from others, and examples include creative writing, academic writing, and business writing.

For example, as a Google technical writer, you might provide documentation on how users can embed YouTube videos. If you're a Twitter technical writer, you could develop documentation explaining how people can build a Twitter profile.

Nevertheless, all technical writers have everyday job duties.

Examples of Technical Writing

  1. Product documents: concepts and features.
  2. Procedures: how to perform actions.
  3. API documentation: APIs and parameters with code samples.
  4. Installation and configuration guides: steps to install and configure products.
  5. User guides: different types of user guides target specific users. For example, user guides for end users and advanced users.
  6. Admin Guide: Guides meant for Administrators with advanced features and permissions.
  7. Error Docs: Guides explaining the Error Codes and how to fix them.
  8. FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) to help users quickly.
  9. Knowledge Base: KB used by external users and internal Support teams.
  10. Integration Guides: Steps to integrate third-party products.

Are Technical Writers Important?

Almost all current global enterprises demand technical documentation. Thus, creating such content has become a job title in and of itself.

All levels of the corporate and commercial hierarchy require someone to translate complex information into easily understood content for the end user. That is the job description for a technical content writer.

In this age, technical writers are indispensable.

What are the Skills Needed for Technical Writing?

The skills mentioned below are necessary to be an excellent technical writer.

1. Having a good command of the English language.

Before you can write content that people will like to read, you must first have a good command of English. Understanding tenses and punctuation and learning how to make a good paragraph.

Constructing good sentences is one of the ways to differentiate the experienced technical writer from the newbie.

2. Building your writing skill

Building your writing skills while starting your technical writing career is crucial. No matter the number of writing boot camps you have joined or online courses you have taken, you need to write consistently to see remarkable changes.

Building your writing skills means reading other writers' articles, and also it means that you need to write more. The more you write, the more you gain mastery over time.

You learn to write by writing, reading, and thinking about how writers have created their characters and invented their stories.

"If you are not a reader, don't think about being a writer." - Jean M. Auel

3. Research

"Research is seeing what everyone else sees and thinking what nobody else thinks." -Szent-Gyorgyi Albert. Research helps you write up-to-date content and understand what the readers want.

It assists you in gathering topic-related information from a variety of sources, including journals, blogs, rival literature, dissertations, whitepapers, and even professional social media, such as LinkedIn.

You must discern helpful information and narrow your research to specific points.

List those points in order of importance to the subject.

Lastly, your research may warrant that you interview current experts in that field or even take their course on the topic you are researching.

4. Audience Survey

One of the ways to create content that is users centric and helpful to readers is by asking the following questions before you start writing:

  • Who are my readers?
  • What do they need?
  • What is their knowledge level?
  • Why will they be reading?
  • How will they be reading?

Your answer to these questions will help you write quality readers-centric content.

5. Content Planning

Planning is key to having a successful execution of anything.

Content planning allows you to have the readers in mind while drafting a content outline.

It helps you to know what to include and what not to include while drafting the content outline.

6. Editing

As a technical writer, the beauty of your work comes out in editing; that is why many organizations have editors. It is in editing that your work comes alive.

While you are starting as a technical writer and don't have an editor, it is vital to learn the rudiments of editing. It is in editing you discover grammatical errors and others.

Pay quality attention to editing; this will make you stand out from other technical writers.

How Can Writing Increase Your Job Opportunities?

  1. Technical writing can help developers to showcase their expertise and skills to potential clients.
  2. Developers can demonstrate their knowledge and experience in their field by publishing technical articles, blog posts, or tutorials.
  3. Technical writing helps developers build a personal brand.
  4. Technical writing improves networking, collaboration, and career advancement opportunities.
  5. Technical writing can help developers to improve their communication and collaboration skills.

Roles for Technical Writers

Here are some of the roles that companies expect a technical writer to fill:

1. Technical Writer

While writers can have a profound experience in the area they're writing about, it's beneficial to have at least some practical knowledge of certain aspects of work from a technical standpoint. For example, blockchain writers should know how blockchain works.

2. User Experience (UX) Writer

It refers to communication abilities. A UX writer should be able to write product descriptions and guides. They aim to write about their reader's pain areas and provide solutions.

3. Technical Researcher

Conducting research is one of the fundamental skills for a writer. The technical researcher must refine and streamline their search to gather the most helpful information about a subject swiftly.

4. Documentation Engineer

They are the ones involved in writing documentation for different projects. Some projects may necessitate the creation of many publications on the same topic for readers with varying levels of expertise.

Writers must understand which sources include enough knowledge to assist all readers and then spin the content to appeal to novice and advanced readers.

5. Developer Advocate

They write developer-centric content that drives awareness about the company's product.

A developer advocate is part of developer relations and, as such, is often known as DevRel.

They are the face of the developer team of the company.

How to Learn Technical Writing?

1. Taking a Course

The best way to learn these skills is to do an online course. What happens with a course is that it binds you in a structure so that you can learn more efficiently.

The following are the online learning platforms where you can take courses on technical writing.

a). Coursera

https://www.coursera.org/learn/engineering-writing

b). Udemy

https://www.udemy.com/topic/technical-writing/

c). Google Technical Writing Course

https://developers.google.com/tech-writing

2. Self-Training

Self-training is essential. Even when taking a course, you must learn on your own.

You can begin by reading several books on the subject and digesting a large amount of knowledge. After all, being unique is essential, and if you can discover something by self-studying, then only you can produce some unique technical content.

3. Learn from a Professional

If you know someone who has been in this profession for a long time, you can also take shelter in their mentorship.

4. Learn on the Job

You need to keep learning. Every day something new is coming up, so you must keep up with those things.

List of Technical Writers You Can Follow

The technical writers in this list are amazing people; you should learn from their experience.

Just as iron sharpens iron, so also writers can sharpen each other.

  1. K
  2. Idris
  3. John
  4. Shuriken
  5. Dappa Dan
  6. Francesco
  7. Dillion
  8. Fortune
  9. Nader
  10. Edidiong
  11. Victor Fawole

Free Platforms Where You Can Publish Your Content

It is good to write consistently. However, your write-ups should not be in your google docs; you have to publish them for people to read, so you can benefit from all the gains they provide.

Here are the platforms that I can recommend for you:

  1. Hashnode
  2. Dev. to
  3. Hackernoon
  4. Medium

The Best Method to Find Writing Gigs

  • Network with people in their DMs
  • Show your expertise via communication.
  • Show your work via GitHub or any other means.
  • Deliver the best technical content.

Ask your favorite DevRel person if they need a good writer; you can help to build the subsequent integration, docs, or that pending blog post.

Is Technical Writing a Promising Career?

Becoming a technical writer is viable if you enjoy writing and dealing with technology.

To deliver effective instruction and outstanding writing abilities, you should have a decent background in English, which you can get by completing online classes or studying the topic.

Do You Need a University Degree for a Technical Writing?

Gone are the days when only graduates from the English or communication department in university or college could be technical writers.

Currently, no degree is required; you only need a good portfolio that you can show the employer as proof that you have written a technical article before, and you can help them write the technical content they desire.

How Much Does a Technical Writer Earn?

According to Glassdoor, the national average base salary for technical writers is $77,812. Additionally, the average salary range is between $39,000 and $155,000.

Some tech companies offer technical writers $100 to $600 per article they publish on their platforms. Some hire technical writers with a minimum hourly pay of $35.

Suppose you love to create content focusing on various Web3 topics. QuickNode has an excellent authorship program. You will get paid $350 per article. That's a way to start your technical writing.

Bottomline

Finally, if you want to work as a technical writer, discover which specialized content type best suits your writing skills and employment requirements.

To some extent, technical writers must be subject matter specialists because they produce the material that professionals in a field would study to become experts in their area.

Their competence stems from extensive theoretical research into a professional field or issue and creating content based on their findings.

The key to success is to begin writing. No tricks or shortcuts are needed; start creating.

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