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The Career Guide to Technical Writing

What a Technical Writer Does

Technical writing is far different than fiction writing or even non-fiction writing. For one thing technical writing must be exact. For example writing "the push rod must be about 10 inches long" just will not do. "The push rod must be between 9.89 inches to 10.06 inches long" is better. Writing "place heat sink compound between chip and heat sink" will not do. "Place 2cc of Grayhill number 7 heat sink compound between the chip's upper surface and the heat sinks lower surface, leaving no air gaps" is better.

One thing technical writers do is write specifications, and the whole point of a specification is; it is specific. Sometimes a technical document is a legal document. A technical document can be a bane to a company in litigation if the product doesn't perform as defined in its specification and that result in loss or damage. On the other hand a technical document can be a blessing to a company in litigation because it sets a specified limit on the performance of a product, otherwise a default "warranty of purpose" applies.

What a Technical Writer Writes

• users guides
• operating manuals
• service manuals
• troubleshooting guides
• manufacturing instructions
• product specifications
• Training courseware
• FAQ (frequently asked questions)

Skills That Would be a Great Advantage

• ability to create charts and⁄or diagrams
• ability to draft and⁄or illustrate
• ability to compose photographs
• multilingual would be a great advantage

Sometimes technical writers perform the important service of opening a communications channel between the scientists, programmers, and engineers who develop a product, and the people who use the product but who don't understand engineering jargon.

Frequently, technical writers are called upon to update a specification or other technical document, which although that sounds easier than writing it from scratch, often is much more difficult, especially if some one else wrote the original document.

Technical Writers Working Conditions

Most technical writers work in offices where they are directly by the companies that use their services. Some work for work for technical consulting firms and work in the consulting firms office or are sent to the customers site to work on short-term or recurring assignments. some are self-employed as freelance technical writers get paid per assignment.

Technical writers are often under severe time constraints because the details of a product are not totally fleshed out until the last minute and then the manufacturer expects completed technical documents to ready immediately so that the product can go to market. Technical writers may be expected to work evenings and weekends.

Training⁄Education Required to be a Technical Writer

A technical degree and good writing ability is usually required to be a technical writer. Usually some experience in the subject specialty is also required. For example experience in the electronics, programming, or medical field may be required. Part of your Training⁄Education should include mathematics because mathematics is the language of science and engineering. Part of your Training⁄Education should include creating online content because today almost all technical documentation goes online.

Technical writer Pay

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, technical writers earn between $37,160 and $100,910 annually, with the median annual earning being $63,280. Wages for technical writers in the mechanical engineering areas tend to be somewhat lower than those in the software and information technologies areas.

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