A technical writer prepares clear, concisely written documentation that communicates technical information to a target audience. Some common examples of technical writing include user manuals for software, documentation guides for industrial machinery, and design or engineering specifications for construction projects. This is a very diverse field, and according to the American Bureau of Labor Statistics, it is rapidly growing.
In addition to being able to create clearly written communications, a technical writer must also be knowledgeable about the field in which he or she works. For example, one who works on documentation for medical procedures typically has an education in the medical field in addition to language skills. These writers can be found in engineering, physics, chemistry, biology, medicine, technology, and an assortment of other industries.
When a tech writer is assigned a project, he or she thoroughly researches the subject material. In the case of a how-to manual that explains how to use something, the writer may thoroughly explore the object so that he or she understands how it works. After carrying out extensive research, he or she will create a document that communicates information in clear, useful terms. This document is typically tailored to the audience; software documentation, for example, tends to be very clear and simple so that inexperienced users can easily follow it. On the other hand, documentation for a specialized laser used in physics experiments may be less simplified, because it assumes that the laser's users already have knowledge in the field.
After writing a document, most technical writers submit it for editing, either to peers or to people who specialize in technical editing. The editor checks for basic spelling and grammar errors, and also confirms that the document is detailed and clear enough for the audience that it will be marketed to. After a writer's work is approved, it can be published in the appropriate venue, whether it be a user's manual packed with a piece of equipment, an online help site, or a trade journal.
To become a tech writer, someone must possess very strong written communication skills, and a passion for teaching people will certainly help. Someone who wants to do general technical writing may be able to get by without a specialized education, but education and experience are musts for some fields.
There are a wide variety of work environments for technical writers and editors, ranging from solitary self-employment to teams that work for specific companies. In all cases, a sense of teamwork and an ability to accept criticism are two useful traits that can strengthen a writer's abilities and desirability to employers.