Best Tips for Tech-Writers

Tech-writing is a tricky organization. It's not a really high-profile industry, so there's very little assistance around. Follow these fast ideas, and you'll be well on your way to a gratifying tech-writing career.



Are you new to tech-writing, or are you thinking of starting your own company?

Recognizing that tech-writers are evil is key to your success.

Tech-writers are needed because someone must write the user manual. Managers and programmers don't want to do this. This is part of why you are evil. My experience is that most managers and programmers believe they can write manuals if given a chance. Although they might not be as "flowery" as tech-writers, what they do write is accurate.


Unfortunately, this is often all programmers and managers need to know.

The software industry has a belief that accuracy equals quality. The tech-writer may not be concerned about the following: Audience analysis, doco readability, consistency, usability, and commas in a list containing three or more items and the user.


A lot of things get lost in a world where accuracy is paramount. It's possible that it's intellectual snobbery; however, programmers and managers seem compelled to believe that the user should understand programming. It doesn't really matter if they know it or not. They should! They are stupid users; it could be the geek's ultimate vengeance.


You can make your document 100% accurate, but the audience won't understand it.


It is why no one acknowledges it. They do! This is the strange part. While everyone is in theory in agreement with you, you are left out in the cold in practice, and that is what I find odd. It could be that most of these men have never been tech-writing.


Tech-writers can spend too much time worrying about trivial things. They also bother managers and programmers with irrelevant things. They're essential. Without them, there would be no reason to work. Perhaps their brains are short-circuited by the lack of simple logic. We don't know.


We can draw some conclusions from this: tech-writers feel like they waste their time and are at the bottom end of the software industry. We could live without these little creatures! A good analogy would be the way the rich view the poor.

There is a plus side. It's not all bad; I want you to see it that way.


There are many benefits to being at the bottom of the heap. If you're lucky, you can go unnoticed for many years. You should rent Office Space if you haven't yet seen it. That little ferrety guy was "let go" many years ago. The problem is that no one told him and a glitch with payroll meant he got paid. Nobody noticed.


It's not difficult to be a tech-writer.


When I managed doco teams, my favorite saying was, "All they have to do is manage their expectations and our commitments." Sometimes programmers and managers are tempted to give in to this temptation. This temptation is not to be allowed! They'll never believe what you've said again! If you are caught doing it, it will be like the boy that cried wolf.


Another risk is losing your sense of urgency. That's one of the key characteristics that make a great worker. It is essential to be strict in managing your commitments. It would be best if you were disciplined, as it can sometimes seem that you are the only one who cares. However, it would help if you did it.


You should know that the average tech-writer for software only spends about half of their time writing. Your time should be spent on problem-solving, planning, research, interviewing programmers, and writing work practices.

It was always a good balance for me.


The bottom fell out when I began managing teams. After that, the percentage fell to between 10-20%. Sometimes I would go for months without writing any help can be frustrating, especially if management is not something you enjoy.

It's an exciting job to manage tech-writers working in software. However, this doesn't make you qualified to become a manager. Software companies are known for simply putting people in management positions without any training or support.


I don't have any advice. It's going to happen. It's essential to be aware of the fact that you will be in a managerial role. It can be advantageous.).

Ironically, the most challenging aspect of the problem is the fact that your staff is screaming at you to fix it. "The programmers aren't answering our questions!" "None of my work has been reviewed in the last 2 months!" "The Project Manager just told me to forget quality!"


The inexperienced tech-writer often believes they can make the system better. You will soon realize that you cannot manage once you are a manager. Wait, maybe apathy is what makes you qualified to become a manager.


My advice, in any case, is not to push too hard. Your manager will find it difficult, and you'll get a bad name. Recognize that you are a necessary evil and work within your limitations.


Tech-writing can be very entertaining. It's also not boring. It's a challenge to imagine a way to describe the contents of the Name field without saying "Enter the title".



Tech-Writers Best Tips


Tech-writing can be a tricky business. Tech-writing is not a well-known industry, so there isn't much support. These best tips will help you get a rewarding career in tech-writing.


1) Choose a sensible career path.

STEP 1 - Start with a team

STEP 2 - Stay just long enough

STEP 3 - Manage yourself

STEP 4: Manage your team

STEP 5: Contracting (depends upon the market).


2) Knowledge is your lifeblood. Learn the politics of your company. Find out who knows what. Get your name tattooed on the shoulder of someone who gives you reliable, timely, and technically accurate answers. Each company has at a minimum of one. And they may not be in the project manager/product manager/customer/programmer roles. These are the people who have used the product in real life and worked with real customers.


3) Communicate WITH, NOT AT. Tech-writers aren't able to communicate.


4) Keep track of stuff (print out a spreadsheet and put it on the board).


5) Learn good product and domain knowledge. The more you know for yourself, the better you will be (and the more respect that you'll receive from the techies). Develop excellent item and domain understanding-- The more you can find out for yourself, the much better off you'll be.


6) Get to know your users, their goals and challenges, and what they would like to help you. Provide this assistance. Then, allow the user to accomplish what they want. Do not tell users what the product can do. A help system will only be helpful if it addresses the user's needs.


7) Treat each customer as a customer, Manage their expectations and respect your commitments. Please make sure they are aware of what you are doing. Tell them when you will be done. Make sure you meet your deadline.


8) Provide usability feedback to the development team by providing a surrogate user test mechanism.


9) Put in the effort to produce high-quality content on time and within budget is how you will get satisfaction from your work.


10) Have fun. It's the best way to stay happy and get ahead.


Do not become complacent or cynical about the harsh, high-tech, and uncaring IT world. Make the most of what you have and use your brain. Make work satisfaction your top priority. It's the best way for you to be happy and move ahead.


Discover somebody who regularly provides you prompt, reputable, technically precise responses, and get their name tattooed on your shoulder! They are usually the individuals who've utilized the item in the real world and dealt with real-world customers.

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