Essential Skills of a Technical Writer

Sometimes a movie dialogue can be so inspiring that it sticks to your head and becomes a mantra for life.

One such dialogue is the “particular set of skills” lines from the movie “Taken”.

I don’t know who you are. I don’t know what you want. If you are looking for ransom, I can tell you I don’t have money. But what I do have are a very particular set of skills, skills I have acquired over a very long career, skills that make me a nightmare for people like you. If you let my daughter go now, that’ll be the end of it. I will not look for you. I will not pursue you. But if you don’t, I will look for you, I will find you, and I will kill you.”

In the movie, Liam Neeson uses the “particular set of skills”, he had acquired over a very long career to save his daughter from the bad guys. And just like Liam Neeson, you’ll need to master some skills for a long and successful career in technical writing.

In this article, I share five core skills you need to develop to start your career in technical writing:

People Skills

A normal day of a technical writer involves interacting with multiple departments to gather information related to the assigned task. Sometimes you need to interact with Subject Matter Experts (SME) and other times with managers, design teams and deployment teams.

You need to be smart enough to:

  • Listen to your sources
  • Extract all the information that you need by asking appropriate questions (hurting no one’s ego)
  • Verify and confirm facts

Research Skills and Tech Savvy-ness

After gathering information from multiple teams, you need to carry out independent research before writing. Some ways of researching is, to look at any previous documents your company has, your competitor’s products, exploring the test version of the product.

Writing Skills

Writing skills may seem obvious, but as a technical writer you need to know a lot more than just how to frame correct sentences. Unlike other forms of writing, technical writers write to inform. Your primary job is to break down complex techie stuff into simple words. Your writing should be to the point without sound too boring. A small hack is to cut off redundant words and use active voice instead of passive voice. If this isn’t your style of writing yet, don’t sweat. We can gain this skill through a bit of training and practice.

Illustration Skills

Most of us are visual learners. Adding visuals like flowcharts, diagrams and screenshots, helps you to convey an idea better.As a technical writer, you should be able to assess whether an idea needs a visual and if so, what kind.

Planning and Organizational Skills

One quality that separates a good technical writer from a bad one is the way they structure the information. A good technical writer always plans the document structure before jumping to write first.Also, it is important to follow a consistent files and folders organizing format, because things can quickly spiral out of hands.

So what according to you are the most important skills that any technical writer should have? Share your thoughts in the comment section.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to top