Technical writing jobs are available and are really great freelance writing opportunities, but knowing the field is the best place to start.
In order to get technical writing jobs, you need to know that technical writing is a form of technical communication, and the writing styles are formal writing used in many fields as diverse as the sciences, computers, finance, the aerospace industry, robotics, consumer electronics, and any type of technology.
What technical writers do is explain technology and how it works as well as related ideas to both technical and nontechnical audiences. For example, technical writing manuals, telling a computer programmer how to use a specific type of software or explaining how to program a VCR to a consumer.
Technical writers are suppose to take what seems complicated, and simplify it for the user. That is what technical writing jobs are all about.
So, what skills are important for technical writers and in getting technical writing jobs?
Every career has certain skills that are important to that career and things you must know in order to be successful. Attorneys go to law school, doctors go to medical school and technical writers must study too.
A great resource to learn technical writing is Technical Writing: Principles, Strategies, and Readings.
In the book, you will find these skills, as well as many more that are necessary for the technical writer to be successful as well as some great technical writing tips.
These are some of my favorites.
In order for technical documents to be useful, it's readers must understand and be able to act on them without having to decode the instructions like a secret message.
Good technical writing skills clarify what would be technical jargon and present it as information that is clear and easy to understand for the intended audience.
A manual that provides readily-accessible and practical information regarding the technical writing process is Developing Quality Technical Information A Handbook for Writers and Editors.
I highly recommend studying technical writing. You know what good technical writing is supposed to do, but poor technical writing increases confusion by using technical jargon that couldn't possibly be understood by the average person, or it fails to explain unavoidable technical terms that are necessary for the reader to be familiar with in order to be able to use the instructions.
For example: Let's consider a technical writer writing a recipe to make Chili. What questions need to be answered in order to do the job?
If the technical writer is given the recipe written on a napkin but it is impossible to make out, so she must also interview a subject matter expert (SME) like the chef who created it.
Then she is told that the audience consists of people in their own kitchens, so the writer must adjust the style accordingly and replace or explain words in the source material like "beurre mixer" or "springform pan."
The chef reviews a draft of the recipe (a technical edit) and marks in needed technical corrections (bake at 350 degrees, not 325 degrees). The writer prepares a final draft and the document goes into edit to be sure that all instructions are grammatically correct.
The document owner and any other stakeholders perform a final review and approve the recipe before it is sent to the printer.
That is, in a nutshell, how the technical writer does her job! There are so many writing careers to choose from, but one that pays very well is technical writing jobs.
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