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So You Want to be a Technical Writer? 
 
by Donna Reynolds June 14, 2005

Positive Aspects of the Job

The job has its positive aspects:

  • I am getting paid to write! Anyone with a degree in English knows how hard that is to accomplish
  • I am constantly being challenged to select the right word and to rephrase seemingly incomprehensible sentences into clear, concise language.
  • I can work at home when I need to. This is a definite plus to the job. There are times when I need to focus and cannot do so with the distractions in the office. These are the times when I can spend the day in my sweats, working from home!
  • There are still jobs for technical writers, and nationally, the pay scale is respectable.

Negative Aspects of the Job

As with any job, there are some negative aspects to this job:

  • The writer usually is unacknowledged, and there is no feeling of recognition once the document is complete. It becomes public domain on release, and the writer’s name is generally not attached to the document.
  • The writing tends to be dry without a lot of opportunity for creativity.
  • Information is often sketchy and unclear. It is sometimes very difficult to track down the engineer for clarification
  • The product is not always available to use until after the first draft is completed. Hard as that may seem to believe, I have written complete manuals without once having touched the product.

Fortunately, the positives outweigh the negatives, and as I continue in this job, l learn more every day. This is a career path that few people actually choose, but as technology increases, there will be more of a need for people with this skill set.

Qualifications

A person looking to enter the field of technical writing should have a good command of the English language, and the ability to write in a clear, concise fashion. The technical writer must be able to describe a step-by-step process in simple, easy to use terms, and an orderly fashion. Every step, no matter how mundane, must be documented, and the writer cannot assume that the reader knows even the simplest command.

Normally, a technical writer is expected to have a degree in either English or a technical field. Most companies require some experience when hiring an individual from outside the company, but as in my case, someone from inside the company with a grasp of the product can be brought in as a trainee.

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