Any form of writing used to communicate technical information is considered technical writing. As such, it differs significantly from other styles of writing like creative writing.
So what makes a good, productive technical writer?
Establishing good habits and using the right tools are crucial to helping technical writers improve their skills and become more successful. Here are 6 tips that will help you boost productivity and avoid burnout.
Use the Right Tools and Resources
Using the appropriate tools can make the life of a tech writer much simpler. For example, there is software available for publishing, screen captures, drawing, picture modification, etc.
Technical writers themselves are also creating resources that other writers can use, such as style guides. If you’re the only tech writer in your organization, using a style guide is crucial since it ensures that your writing is consistent throughout various papers. The importance of following a style guide increases if you work in a team. This way, all authors may access the same editorial guidelines and adhere to them, ensuring that the content you produce reflects a consistent brand voice and identity.
Use a Help Authoring Tool
Another resource that is crucial to have is a help authoring tool. Technical writers use software called a help authoring tool (HAT) to generate online help topics, FAQs, documentation, etc. Standard features of HATs include ready-made templates, file import, and workflow tools.
The main reason why HATs are so popular with technical writers is that they offer many benefits. The three areas where help authoring tools have the biggest impact are higher SEO rankings, easier documentation management, and lower support expenses.
Always Do Your Research
When a technical writer lacks the necessary basic knowledge on a subject, it might be challenging to write extensively about it. You must compile some data before you begin working on your documentation.
Consider going through user story reviews and code reviews, or even sitting through product management meetings in order to learn more about the product or feature you’re writing about. Additionally, you can conduct an interview with a subject matter expert, or as an alternative, you can ask the feature developer for a draft paper.
Technical writers frequently forget about setting priorities since everything looks equally important.
Technical writers will always have urgent work on their plates. That is just how the nature of the work is. However, it’s recommended that you periodically stand back to obtain a gist of the wider picture. It will be of great help if you take the time to create a list of your tasks in order of priority, with the highest priority items at the top and the lowest at the bottom. This way, you’ll be able to better plan your backlog.
Study Fields Beyond Technical Writing
Many technical writers are unaware of the fact that the technical writing industry is becoming more and more entwined with other industries. This means that in order to stay current with the newest trends, technical writers must study these other disciplines.
For instance, as cloud computing and robots gain popularity, more businesses will want technical writers who are knowledgeable on how to produce documentation in these disciplines. As a result, learning about both can help you be more productive and advance your career.
Review Your Material
In technical writing, the focus should be more on quality than quantity. The most important thing is to consider everything from the user’s point of view. Enhancing the writing process encourages writers to take a step back and adopt a fresh viewpoint. The documentation gets better with each evaluation of the source material.
The time spent reading the content over and over again is decreased when spelling and grammatical checks are automated. For instance, programs such as Grammarly can speed up the process of proofreading by allowing writers to quickly examine their text for grammatical errors. It is also common to use other tools for plagiarism detection, editing software, etc. These tools find problems that are invisible to the human eye while assisting writers in streamlining their workflow.
To become a technical writer, you need to have the right skills and a solid knowledge base. However, in order to become more productive and advance your technical writing career, you need to keep improving your skills, learn new things, and use quality technical writing tools. Use the six tips in this article to help you adjust to the changes in the technical writing industry and grow as a professional.