Technical writing skills are constantly changing with the growing needs and demands of technology. The ability to identify the exact skills that can help you advance in your technical writing career is difficult. That’s why, in this article, we will discuss the top in-demand technical skills, what they entail, and how to hone them in 2023.
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Technical Writer Skills
Technical writers are constantly expanding their skill set considering the need of the time—the digital age. Since their career is growing, the demand for a diverse set of technical skills is also rising.
Following are the top technical writing skills every technical writer should possess in 2023:
First and foremost, technical writers are technical communicators. They’re experts at identifying/adapting their communication according to the knowledge and understanding of their audience.
To that end, a technical writer should work on polishing the following communication skills include:
- Clarity—Technical writers are cohesive, concise, and clear in their verbal and written communication.
- Purpose—Before their interaction with the audience, they are well aware of why it is crucial to communicate in the first place, the purpose of what they are sharing, and what problems they are aiming to resolve for the end-users.
- Openness—They deliver an overall positive tone in their message, avoiding all sorts of patronizing and negative remarks or instructions.
- Confidence—For their content to be trusted, they avoid hesitancy to pursue knowledge.
- High Regard for Ideas and Opinions of Others—A technical writer serves the audience. Therefore, they respect their audience’s perspectives and needs by incorporating them in their technical communication.
Furthermore, a technical writers’ role involves actively listening and planning before contributing to the verbal or written discourse.
Technical skills are a broad term used to understand industry-specific technology (including their product and services).
Even though many technical writers pursue their higher education in a technical field (such as engineering or information technology), the technical skills of a technical writer refer to their technical knowledge of their subject matter of interest.
The technical skills of a writer are just an expanding ocean of knowledge in different fields of their interest and the interests of their company.
However, on a general note, a few in-demand technical skills include:
- Project Management
- Product Development
- Programming Languages
- User Experience (UX) Design
Senior technical writers are also good at document management through various productivity software.
A technical writer’s process cannot begin without extensive research. They document each technical document through feedback from end-users and subject matter experts.
However, for a more precise overview, technical research can be divided into these two broad categories:
- Audience Analysis—This is the research they conduct throughout the process for certain technical content. The approach involves understanding the target audience, including demographics, level of technical knowledge related to the product, and interests and needs.
- User Experience—The experience includes the readability of technical documentation after the product or feature has been launched (such as usability testing, which explains how easy it is to use a product for the target users).
Whereas everything else in the research process pertinent to the scientific conduction of the research is a prerequisite for every technical writer (such as metrics, data collection, and data analysis).
Since technical writers must write different types of technical content, they must have a flexible approach to and knowledge of different styles.
The most common types of content that they must know how to create include:
- User Manuals—Often used interchangeably with the broader terms, online help or user guides, these are documents containing instructions for end-users on how to use a particular product or process.
- Technical Reports—These are reports that maintain complex information about a specific product in an understandable format, including its development, progress, and history.
- Policies and Procedures—These include documenting guidelines for the appropriate usage of industry assets and technology to ensure a safe and productive work environment.
- Case Studies—are documents that explore end-users interaction with the product and analyze complex technical information for future improvements.
Additionally, technical writers should write and manage their content on specific tools, such as Microsoft (MS) Word, RoboHelp (for help files), and FrameMaker (for formatting), etc.
Besides skills, technical writers can analyze their work, edit, and format critically, and consistently improve until the technical information becomes entirely understandable for the desired audience.
While editing a technical draft, technical writers should consider the following:
- Content review
- Spelling and punctuation
- Structure and style
- Tone of voice
- Technical vocabulary
Overall, they ensure that their document follows the exact format and guidelines of the specific technical content at hand.
If you’re interested in learning more about editing technical documentation and other technical writing skills, check out our Technical Writing Certification Course.
It is important to remember that technical writers communicate technical information in a written format and visually in graphs, infographics, and videos. Writers make the content more appealing and easily digestible for the user.
Considering that, some of the in-demand design skills a technical writer needs include:
- Information Design—The ability to visually and verbally represent information (including facts, graphs, statistics, tables, and figures) in the most accessible way, understood by the specific audience.
- Information Architecture—The ability to structure and organize information in the most user-friendly way.
- Typography—The ability to arrange and present written word most appropriately and legibly depending upon the type of technical document.
- Basics of Graphic Design—The ability to visually communicate complex information in the form of helpful illustrations.
The above skills need the knowledge of widely used design software, such as Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator.
Even though technical writing jobs are assumed to be desk jobs, most technical writers must work with employees from all departments and diverse target audiences.
Therefore, every good technical writer knows how to work collaboratively with people from different backgrounds and areas of knowledge and expertise.
When it comes to teamwork, a technical writer should have the following skillset:
- Team Building Skills—Technical writers are active listeners, observant, and they make sure every voice of authority shows with feedback incorporated in their consultation and process.
- Conflict Resolution Skills—When it gets hard to understand product language, team members, and target audiences, and they fall into disagreements, they’re quick at resolving them by finding different ways to communicate anything that the audience misunderstood.
- Problem Solving Skills—The ability to promptly derive innovative solutions to problems that arise in their process.
- Decision-Making Skills—They are good at trusting their instincts and competence, making calculated but firm decisions when finding solutions for end-users.
- Planning and Organizational Skills—They know how to plan, structure, and manage different technical documentation projects and deliver them timely.
- The Art of Persuasion—To find common ground with developers and subject matter experts, and for their say to be valued, it is essential to have influence.
Apart from the above, individuals must possess tolerance, empathy, and perseverance to navigate through the technical writer job function smoothly and successfully apply their skillset.
Develop Your Technical Writing Skills
Now that we’ve listed the essentials technical writing skills, the question arises, how to hone them?
Here are a few actionable steps you can take to improve or acquire technical writing skills:
- Complete Your Education—Technical writers are encouraged when they possess a bachelor’s degree in a technical field such as engineering, information technology, or communications (Journalism, or English).
- Take Different Courses and Training Programs—You can quickly learn many skills such as technical writing and graphic design skills through online or onsite courses. It is wise to with investing in a class.
- Follow the Professionals—It is essential to look at all the resources from subject matter experts from your field of interest, including their books, guides, articles, and training programs.
- Research Your Field—To consistently improve your skills, you must have access to good technical content resources, which means you’ll have to stay updated with your industry.
- On-the-Job Training—There are a lot of employers that are willing to give training to technical writers for them to understand how things work within their organization. However, it is equally important to show them your enthusiasm and dedication. Put together a compelling technical writer resume and go for it.
Again—all you need is the determination to become a technical writer, and the technical skills will follow with appropriate investment.
The list above of technical writing skills is comprehensive enough for anyone to acquire or improve them.
However, before you begin, you must remember, technical writers do not write for the sake of technology, but for one and only one purpose alone, to make technology accessible.
Therefore, if you’re considering a career in technical writing, make sure to with the right mindset.
If you are new to technical writing and are looking to break-in, we recommend taking our Technical Writing Certification Course, where you will learn the fundamentals of being a technical writer, how to dominate technical writer interviews, and how to stand out as a technical writing candidate.