What Are the Essential Skills of a Technical Writer?

Dan Cavallari
Dan Cavallari
Consumers rely on clear technical writing when assembling products.
Consumers rely on clear technical writing when assembling products.

Writing technical documents requires a professional with specific skills in disseminating complex information and presenting that information in an easy-to-understand format. The skills of a technical writer are perfectly suited to such tasks, and this professional must be able to do complex and in-depth research, take notes on the information, and process that information into various types of documents. Many of the skills of a technical writer can be learned by completing a college degree in writing, communications, or even journalism, but a certain amount of natural talent in writing and researching is also necessary.

One of the primary skills of a technical writer is an ability to clearly process information. The writer will often need to interview subject matter experts (SMEs), who are people with specific expertise in a certain field. The writer must take the information learned from the SME and turn it into documentation that can be easily understood by people who are not experts in the field. Documents must be written clearly and concisely, meaning the skills of a technical writer must include a firm knowledge and understanding of language, grammar, and diction.

Perhaps one of the most important skills of a technical writer is an ability to recognize an intended audience and adjust the writing for that audience. If, for example, the technical writer is creating a document that will be read by experienced financiers, he or she will need to use appropriate language and terminology that these financiers will understand. On the other hand, if the writer is creating an instruction booklet meant to be read by a second grader, he or she will need to adjust the language used to ensure the terms are clear and very simple so the child, who has a limited vocabulary and reading ability can read and understand the instructions.

The technical writer must also be familiar with various types of computer programs, especially word processing programs, and layout and design programs. Much of the writing will be done on a computer, and edits will be made in the computer program as well. Many writers undergo specific computer training to ensure they have more than just a familiarity with the most commonly used programs. Layout and design programs can be somewhat complex, but the writer can make himself more valuable as a job candidate by developing skills in such programs.

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    • Consumers rely on clear technical writing when assembling products.
      Consumers rely on clear technical writing when assembling products.