GUIDE 2023

What Does an API Technical Writer Do?

An application programming interface (API) technical writer creates documents that explain how an API works, makes arguments for its usage and helps promote functional programs.

An API technical writer’s audience includes programmers, developers, system designers, and system architects. API technical writers develop documents containing code samples, use cases, authentications, and other resources. In their role, a technical writer helps developers plan, design, and build features.

API technical writers make arguments in favor of using an API and interacting with the API host system. When you write API documentation, technical writers must use their programming experience and developer tools to provide links, examples, sample code, and instructions accessible to most developers:

  • Provide use case examples that explain the most effective ways to use an interface.
  • Provide thorough descriptions of an API’s functions and how it interacts with the application.
  • Make arguments in favor of how to use the API and its interactions.
  • Create tutorials about how to use the API through documents, eLearning, and video tutorials.

What is API Documentation?

API documentation and API technical writers describe how an API works. An API technical writer will include code samples, authentications, classes, functions, and other information required for users to connect with an API.

For example, if two applications must “communicate” with each other to work, a technical writer will describe how they pass information back and forth, such as through parameters and security tokens. API reference documentation includes all details and sets up developers to use the API.

There are three different types of APIs and technical writing:

  • Software API technical writing
  • Hardware API technical writing
  • Web API technical writing

API technical writing differs from other forms of technical writing because it requires knowledge of programming, API documentation tools, and the specific needs of API documents. When you write API documentation, the specific language of documentation depends on the product you work on, including Python, JavaScript, Java, JSON, and C++.

To write API documentation as an API writer, you must understand what the reader needs to know to use the API. An API writer works with an API to include sample code, functions, parameters, use cases, endpoints, and error messages. Good API documentation increases API adoption and optimizes the developer experience (DX). The better the documentation prepared by technical writers, the easier it is to use and work with your API.

API Documentation Technical Writing Education Requirements

Writing API documentation as a technical writer requires you to have a Bachelor’s degree in a related field, such as programming, technical communication, or English. As an API technical writer, you must also know at least one programming language. You must have an effective combination of technical, collaboration, and communication skills to write API documentation.

If you have a degree but lack technical writer or programming skills, take an online or higher-education course. Adding programming experience to your skill stack can speed your career in API reference documentation.

How API Technical Writers Create Documentation

API technical writers have a procedure that they follow to structure data. The process includes hours of research, time spent on compiling data, analyzing it, and writing API documentation. A writer must first examine the data, then create the structure of the document.

To create helpful API documentation, technical writers must include:

  • Use cases: As a technical API documentation writer, you would research relevant topics and provide practical examples. You would also create real-world scenarios that are relevant to the subject, highlighting essential features.
  • API functions: As a technical API documentation writer, you would organize each function’s value to the user. For example, you might list the most important and frequently used functions at the top, explaining functions from the most to least prominent.

Become a Great API Technical Writer

Familiarize yourself with API documentation tools, such as specialized software that creates structured and detailed API documents. An excellent example of this is Swagger UI, an interface description language that uses JSON to develop interactive user documentation. Using such tools for popular structured data formats, you can get a real-life look at how documentation is working:

  • API Blueprint. For excellent API documentation, you can design and prototype APIs and create documentation for them. You can also test and deploy APIs with this great tool to collaborate with other team members.
  • Apiary. You can use this API tool for easy team collaboration from the creation, testing, deployment, and documentation of APIs.
  • Doxygen. This API tool focuses on working with C++ while creating good API documentation for teams.
  • ReadMe.com. With this API tool, you can try working API examples, get developer metrics, and generate links for error messages.

To get into API documentation technical writing, brush up on your coding and API design. There are countless websites where you can learn coding and design like uDemy and Codecademy.

If you want to become an API documentation writer, you can also take classes to learn how to document structured data, provide code snippets, describe source code, detail a user interface, and use writing skills to create API documentation. The more informed you are about how to document structured data in API documents, the more value you can offer with your documentation skills.

Then, network with other API writers and software developers to keep up-to-date with the evolving field of API technical writing and hear about new job opportunities at top companies.

Wrap Up

If you are interested in programming, technical writing, and documenting APIs, consider a career in creating API documentation. Using your knowledge of each API, programming languages, and documenting APIs, you can create reference documentation for application programming interfaces that help whole teams of developers create better products.

As an API technical writer, you must have experience in understanding popular structured data formats and API design, but you can use API technical expertise and an understanding of programming languages to advance web and software productions. Robust API technical documentation paves the way to unique features, functional programs, and popular apps.

If you are new to technical writing, we recommend taking our Technical Writing Certification Course. You will learn the fundamentals of being a technical writer, how to dominate technical writer interviews, and ways of standing out as a technical writing candidate.