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What Does a Senior Technical Writer Do?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Shereen Skola
  • Last Modified Date: 29 June 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2014
    Conjecture Corporation
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A senior technical writer oversees the development of documentation for products like software and hardware systems. This requires a thorough understanding of the product as well as target users, and the ability to communicate clearly and effectively. The position can include supervising a team of personnel who handle issues like illustrating documentation, testing it with target audiences, and pulling it together in a clear and understandable finished format. People typically need experience in technical writing to be considered for job openings as senior technical writers.

Companies developing new products or new version releases rely on technical writers to convey information to members of the public who will be using them. This can include user guides for people with advanced skills and understanding as well as those who might be using the equipment without formal training. The senior technical writer meets with engineers and other team members to discuss what the project does and how it works in order to start developing a documentation plan. Information about the product helps this supervisor determine who should handle which parts of the documentation.

As the product moves through development, the senior technical writer can develop documentation on all the components and how to use it. This includes adjustable settings, optional features, and so forth. Documentation may be produced in an electronic format with an index or in hard copy form. In addition to written discussions, it can include images as well as videos; electronic documentation is ideally suited to presenting videos on specific subjects.

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Several unique skills are needed in technical writing. People need a technical understanding of the product, which can sometimes require a degree in engineering or considerable experience in the industry. They also need to be able to convey that information clearly to broad audiences. This can include people who may not be familiar with the language and terms used, or who need additional information on a product to be able to use it effectively.

Companies looking to fill a senior technical writer position may start from within existing staff. People working for a company are familiar with its products, standards, and style guide so they may be able to step into the role more easily. Recruitment from outside generally favors applicants with formal education and at least five years of technical writing experience. Applicants for senior technical writer positions who have worked in supervisory roles can be especially desirable, because they are comfortable managing teams and coordinating with other departments.

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