Technical Writer

Technical writers have to communicate complex information in simple language. They are the major link between the manufacturer and the end user through the medium of the manufacturer's documentation.  In other words, they write scientific and technical information for a variety of products including web pages, printed documents and computerised help files.


Technical writing is the communication of factual information of any kind using written words and appropriate graphic techniques. Technical writers are responsible for writing specialist articles and user guides for a range of products – usually these documents should be user-friendly and aimed at the consumer, for example, the instruction manual for a DVD player. Often the information is of a very technical nature so a thorough understanding of the subject matter is essential.

Typical examples of technical writing include:

  • operating instructions for a radio, cassette player or calculator
  • the instruction leaflet with medicine
  • motor car workshop manual / owner’s manual
  • do-it-yourself manuals
  • training manuals
  • sales brochures
  • parts lists
  • company reports

Technical authors are responsible for writing, editing and proof-reading text, collating and verifying information, creating and editing pictures and diagrams, liaising with other staff such as printers, photographers and translators and producing indexes and catalogues.

Legislation compels the aircraft and armaments industries to employ technical writers. As there is an increasing emphasis on the provision of adequate documentation, the need for professionally trained technical writers to prepare the documents should also increase.

Technical writers do a great deal of research for the publications that they write, and have to consult specialists in various fields before they can begin their work. Technical writers also work closely with the technical illustrator who prepares the illustrations for the publication.

Key skills are having an eye for detail, technical knowledge, sense of narrative and the ability to articulate meaning.


Personal Requirements

  • must have patience, commitment and dedication
  • must have good communication skills
  • be able to give clear and simple descriptions of complex procedures and techniques
  • have a practical knowledge of graphics, three-dimensional illustrations, typography, photography and printing processes


Employment

  • armaments industry
  • aircraft industry
  • mining industry
  • manufacturing industry
  • self-employment - trained technical writers can work on a contract basis for companies


Getting Started

  • try to obtain vacation or part-time work with a technical writer
  • make an appointment to speak to a technical writer about this type of career


Programmes

Boston City Campus and Business College does not offer a programme that leads directly to this occupation. Please take a look at the related occupations below to see whether any of these appeal to you. Alternately, please send an email to taryn@boston.co.za and a Student Advisor will call you back.


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