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A contract technical writer produces technical documents on a contractual basis. He or she writes documents such as technical guides, how-to manuals, company newsletters, website copy and use-case diagrams for end users. Contract technical writers usually break down highly specialized and technical information so that it is understandable by the average person. These writers work in a variety of industries, including computers, electronics, software, health care, engineering, science and communications.
The exact responsibilities of a contract technical writer vary from setting to setting, but in each case the writer is responsible for producing written work. Writing a technical guide for a software product, for example, will entail first becoming familiar with the product. In this case, the writer has to learn about the various features and functions of the product and then write easy step-by-step instructions to assist the customer in using the product.
In addition to producing guides for end-users, a contract technical writer might work within a company or organization to assist with internal communications between departments. To facilitate communication between product developers and product testers, for example, a contract technical writer might produce documents containing technical information and diagrams. Being effective in this role requires having a solid knowledge of the specific industry.
The necessary qualifications of a contract technical writer vary by industry. In all cases, the individual must be a skilled writer. Many employers require a four-year degree, and some require certification in technical writing. Proficiency in using word processing software is generally required. In addition, a technical writer is often required to insert diagrams, pictures, screen shots and graphs into documents, requiring proficiency in using a variety of computer applications.
Contract technical writers need to possess a specific set of traits. They must be detail-oriented to process highly technical information. The ability to work alone is important as well, as much of their time is spent working with information and writing. They must also possess excellent written and verbal communication skills to convey thoughts clearly in writing and to communicate verbally with the employer.
A contract technical writer usually works according to the terms of an agreed upon contract between him and the employer. His pay may be hourly or on a project basis. He might be required to work on-site and attend company meetings. In other cases, he might work from home and submit completed work using e-mail. The length of the assignment is generally decided upon at the outset and may be adjusted mid-project depending on how long it takes to complete required tasks.
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