Thursday, July 17, 2008

Technical Writing: What is it?

Technical writing is a type of writing that tells people how to use a product – any kind of product. Products can range from a Boeing 777 to a PDA phone. User manuals or any other technical writing output not only tells how to use a product but everything else about the product, such as why you should use the product, salient features, limitations, work around solutions, and trouble shooting information - should your Boeing 777 be nosing diving without a warning.

Technical writing output includes documents, such as User Guides, Quick Reference Manuals, and Trouble Shooting Guides. Most product documentation comes under these three categories.

So next time you are unable to add contacts to your new iPhone 3G, you might just be looking for that user manual (iPhone 3G User Manual). And yes, this user manual is a product of technical writing.

People who do technical writing are called pseudo geeks? Right? No, wrong! People who do technical writings are called technical writers or technical communicators. So to have written that iPhone user manual, a group of technical writers would have got hold of an iPhone much before any one of us did and played with the product day in and day out or at least everyday at work. Then they would have put together their observations into a document and created a list called the content outline listing all the stuff you can do using an iPhone and how to do it. For example, the iPhone manual starts with:

Chapter 1: Getting Smacked (started)

- What You Need

- Activating iPhone

- Upgrading from an Original iPhone

And so on.

So there you have it. You have products. You have writers. And when these writers create content to help you use these products, you have technical writing.

Who can become a Technical Writer?

As long as you are good teacher, have an excellent hold over the language in which you are writing, and you love technology or willing to delve into the technical abyss, you can be an effective technical writer.

To start as a technical writer, know the basics:
Communication Fundamentals
*Communication Models
*Factors affecting communication
*Verbal and non-verbal communication

*Nuances of English Grammar
*Global English - US & UK English
*Active and Passive Voices
*Gender Fair Language

Technical Writing Tools
*Epic Editor
*Quadralay webworks
*Author IT
*Snag It

Professional Qualifications Required for Technical Writing

Anybody with good (read excellent) written communication skill and a perennial urge to learn technology can be a success in technical writing.
Having said that, I would like to highlight that like any other specialized field, technical writing has its own set of academic specializations. Technical writers with an engineering background and good language skills are a sought after lot. However, if you have mastered your arts and know your Plato from your Aristotle, you can still make a geeky bard.

Watch this space for a lowdown on the top ten courses for technical writing and where to get them.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Sorry for my bad english. Thank you so much for your good post. Your post helped me in my college assignment, If you can provide me more details please email me.

Resolving PDF Problems!

You need to send that PDF file by close of business to your product manager/SME and the file won't just print. What do you do?

Listed here is a set of common PDF issues and solutions:

Pain: When you right-click a Microsoft Office file to convert to Adobe PDF, the application returns the message, "Missing PDFMaker files," and does not create an Adobe PDF file.

Solution: Remove Adobe PDF from the Disabled Items list in the Microsoft Office application.
To manage your Disabled Items list in a Microsoft Office application:
1. Open the Microsoft Office application (Word, Excel, Publisher).
2. Choose Help > About [the application name].
3. Click Disabled Items.
4. Select Adobe PDF from the list, and clickEnable.
5. Quit the Microsoft Office application, and then restart it.

If the error message continues to appear after you enable Adobe PDF, then check the security level for macros in Word:
1. Choose Tools > Macro > Security.
2. In the Security dialog, click the Security tab.
3. Choose Medium or High.
4. Do one of the following:
-- If you chose Medium, then click OK.
-- If you chose High, then continue with steps 5 through 7.
5. Click the Trusted Publishers tab.
6. Check Trust all installed add-ins and templates.
7. Click OK.

PDFMaker and the right-click context menu should function again.

For more, see

Pain: Images look fine in MS Word, but after converting to PDF, image quality is poor.

Solution: Save your image in JPG or TIFF format and embed the image into your Word document to publish using Adobe PDF printer. PNGs are not suitable for word to PDF conversion, TIFFS work much better. Use high quality print setting while converting to PDF. Also, standardize the resolution settings of your desktop (1024*768) and the DPI setting in your screen capture software.

Watch this space for more!

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