Responsibilities of a Technical Writer

Are you an aspiring technical writer?

YES?

That’s Great! Welcome to the technical writing world.

As a tech writer, you can explore and understand the technical aspects of a product (e-learning, cloud, on-prem, etc.)and translate the same to the customers in the form of documents. These can be Help Guides, Manuals, and Whitepapers just to name a few.

The technical writing domain adheres to certain standards such as Document Development Life Cycle (DDLC), Microsoft, or Chicago Manual Style of writing.

What does a tech writer do?

As a tech writer, you are responsible for documents related to the product or any software application owned by your organization. You can interact with the Subject Matter Experts (SMEs), refer org-related blogs, articles, or any other internal documents to obtain details and later convert them into technical documents. Let me just give you a snapshot of your responsibilities as a tech writer:

Planning and analyzing: Any technical document starts with the planning phase. This phase is important as it helps you understand the three W’s for writing the document: WHAT, WHEN, and WHY. Identifying and understanding the exact customer requirements is imperative and inevitable for any technical writer to determine the type of document required. For example, if there is any feature introduced in your application, then you might need a new document.

Another important factor in the planning phase that you may find challenging is in estimating the effort and time required in completing the document. At times, as a tech writer, we need to foresee many possible challenges such as the development team taking more time to complete the task and the writers getting less time to document, or intermittent changes in the existing requirements, unavailability of the SMEs, etc.

Designing the document: You can design the documents based on the details procured in the planning and analysis phase. In the design phase, you can design a TOC (Table of Contents) for the document and decide the flow of content to help readers understand the topic.

Developing the content: Yes, now it’s time for you to convert everything you had planned and designed into words. There are many factors that you must consider while documenting such as:

  • User persona or tone used in the document.
  • Tenses used while documenting.
  • Standard technical English.

The development section also includes meeting the SMEs for details required for documentation. It is always recommended to prepare a template that lists the questions that you can use to interview the SMEs to avoid any chance of missing out on any relevant information. Just remember the following when preparing for the interview with the SMEs:

  • Prepare
  • Ask
  • Review
  • (Say) Thank You

Reviewing the document: Once you complete writing the technical documentation after collating the details shared by the SMEs, it’s time to review the contents before making it ready for publishing. There are many levels of the review process such as SME review, peer review, and self-review. Ensure to practice the review process religiously as it determines whether the document is ready to publish or not.

Publishing and Maintaining the document: Your document is ready to be published once the documents are reviewed and signed-off by the SMEs. Once you publish the documents, check if:

  • Every page is published or not.
  • There are any broken URLs or images.

So, now your document is live and ready for use by your customers. But does the story end here? Our documents are always like smartphone applications. We regularly update these applications to its latest version for smooth performance and to avoid security issues, right? Similarly, we need to maintain our documents to keep up with product enhancements. For example, if there are any architectural changes in the product, then you must check if they affect the existing documents. Therefore, remember Document Maintenance is always an important responsibility as a technical writer.

There can be many other responsibilities for a technical writer like creating a video or architectural diagrams that can well explain the product than words. I would rather put it this way, there are so many things that you, as a tech writer can do to uplift the documentation usage by your customers. The details explained above are just the key points.

Hope this one was helpful. In the next blog, I will be writing about how well can you interview your SMEs.

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