From that go-to cookbook you keep to hand in the kitchen, to the instruction manuals that come with flat-pack furniture: technical writers are the undercover stars of everyday life.
These multi-skilled professionals work through dense source material so you don’t have to, extracting meaning and presenting it in a pleasant, easily digestible format. Demand for technical writers is on the rise, particularly in AI, science and technology, and medical fields.
As experts in technical documentation and technical translation, EHLION talks you through the technical writer job description, giving you the low-down on everything from technical writer salary brackets to technical writer qualifications and beyond…
Skills and responsibilities
Technical writers need more than just a way with words to succeed on the job. Although an academic background isn’t a barrier to making a name for yourself in the field, many technical writers have degrees in their chosen specialist subjects, and computer and tech graduates are well represented in the industry.
But what does a technical writer do, exactly? Read on to find out!
The expert skills all good technical writers need to succeed
As well as fine-tuning their copy, technical writers are required to cover the content production process from start to finish, handling a range of responsibilities that include the following:
- All good technical writers should have a database of reliable, trustworthy reference materials, links and sources they can refer back to time and time again, while staying abreast of industry developments and changes to regulations.
- Working with Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) – specialists in their respective fields. Technical writers collaborate with these highly trained professionals to collate source material, interview, and run cross checks.
- Communicating with product developers and designers and working with tech, IT and science staff.
- Handling guidelines and briefs: Clients will often provide framework documentation to be used, including templates, style guides and glossaries.
- Maintaining terminology databases: Because the very nature of their work relies on using the exact right term in specific contexts and ways, technical writers will often be responsible for creating and maintaining databases – which can be particularly important when working on translations that involve CAT tools, or manual translation
- Drafting, writing and proofreading content.
- Collating feedback from companies, developers, and users.
Read EHLION’s article on becoming a technical writer [link when active] for more details on the kinds of documents technical writers produce and how to get started in becoming a technical writer – as well as the qualifications you’ll need.
Technical writing software
In addition to a solid word processor like Microsoft Word, most tech writers work with specialist software to take care of the heavy lifting.
Our round-up merely scratches the surface of the many programs out there available to help you maximize your productivity – with a hefty chunk of them available to download free of charge.
- MadCap Flare: The ultimate go-to tool for authoring and publishing technical writing, with a free trial to test out before you buy.
- MadCap Capture: From the brains that brought you Flare comes Capture, a screen capture and editing powerhouse that’s essential for adding pictures and photos to step-by-step guides and papers.
- Adobe RoboHelp: An excellent all-rounder for creating immersive content and knowledge-based content, along with intuitive authoring solutions.
- oXygen: An XML editing and writing interface and slick content management system tool.
- Trados 2021: Ideal for technical writers-cum-translators, this computer-assisted translation (CAT) tool is one of the best-known in the industry – Trados is a favorite at EHLION.
Technical writers vs. content writers
There’s often confusion surrounding how technical writers differ from content writers. We’ve put together a table to break down the details and explore what’s what.
|Technical writers||Content writers|
|Content and medium||Instruction manuals |
Product samplesHow-to-guidesWhite papers and case studiesProduct notices and leafletsUser guidesAPI documentationScience papersResearch, reports and proposals
|Articles in newspapers, magazines and reviews |
Press releases and press kitsBlog and social media postsWebsitesNewslettersSEO writingBusiness writingFeature pieces and interviewsGhost-writing
|End goal of content||Clarify, explain, condense intricate information in an easy-to-read format||Appeal to readers, sell products, destinations and ideas, entice and inform, showcase brands, events and companies,|
|Average salary||Starting at $50k||Starting at $50k|
|Career progression||Both trajectories offer the potential to grow into an editor [link to article when active] tasked with overseeing other writers. |
Content writers can also expand into social manager and community manager roles, or take on marketing and communications positions.
|Background||Computer science |
Languages and linguisticsJournalismMedia and communications
|Undergraduate degree required||❌||❌|
|More from EHLION||How to become a technical writer |
How to write technical documentationWhat is technical English How to write technical documentation?
[links when active]
Final thoughts: subject specialists with a flair for wordsmithing
Technical writers are experts in their fields, and generally have strong backgrounds in their related subjects and excellent technical skills. They also master the intricacies of the English language – and that includes spelling, punctuation, syntax, and grammar.
Technical writers command good salaries and generally work remotely in freelance roles. They support institutions, clients, and product developers in bringing their products, ideas and research to life, and turn complex technical information into material that’s easy to understand.
EHLION works with technical writers at the top of their game to offer slick, concise and 100% accurate content translations for IT and software, mechanical engineering translations, manufacturing translations and electronics translations, to name but a few.
Get in touch to discuss how our teams can help you put together your specialist documentation. Our teams will be delighted to talk you through our bespoke service over the course of a free consultation.