A passion for learning is the most important qualification for an effective technical writer. You can become an ace technical writer by fine-tuning the way you learn. How you go about learning will make the difference between good results and great results.
Focus on increasing your mastery in:
- Learning technology
- Working with others
Regardless of the country in which you are working, you can use these Seven Habits of Highly Effective Technical Writers as a guide to mastering technical writing excellence.
1. Don’t Take It Personally (learn)
Great technical writers thrive on criticism. They understand that it enables them to improve and to improve the accuracy and readability of their content. So, don’t take criticism personally. Use it to your advantage.
2. Learn Before Asking (respect, impress)
Learn as much as you can from available resources before asking questions. In this way, you can respect others’ time and impress your colleagues with your ability to ask intelligent questions.
3. Ask (often)
Technical writing requires good people skills. Don’t attempt it alone. Ask questions. Ask for help.
4. Rewrite (always)
Pick 3 of your favorite writers. If you were able to see their first drafts, you’d probably think, “I can do much better.” The best writers in the world are the best re-writers. Always rewrite, rewrite, and rewrite some more.
5. Acquire Feedback (test, reviews)
Technical writing is almost never 100% in the first draft. Without adequate testing and review, accuracy is often unattainable. Make sure you get the feedback you need to excel.
6. Understand (before publishing)
When you start, you may not fully understand your subject matter. That’s fine. By the time you publish, make sure you do understand. If you don’t understand what you write, your readers are not likely to understand it, either.
If you write something, you need to understand what you wrote. Even if it is just a draft to show your editor, you need to either a) fully understand what you wrote, or b) have a list of questions. Do not write a sentence that you do not understand.
Notice things. Does the prototype work as expected? Are the user interface labels capitalized consistently? Ask questions. Make suggestions. Be a part of the product team.
Source (republished with permission)Barry Saiff is a leading expert in technical writing outsourcing and managing technical writers. For more than 32 years, Barry has experienced technical writing outsourcing from both sides—as a technical communications leader in the USA, and as a manager of offshore technical writers and customer liaison in the Philippines. Barry frequently leads webinars and speaks at conferences. His popular 7 Habits series of blogs, infographics, and webinars has been featured by the Society for Technical Communication. He has consulted for a variety of companies to help them improve their content and content development processes. Barry is featured in the Content Wrangler webinar Managing Technical Writing Outsourcing in an Agile Environment. Find out more here. Learn more about Barry’s company, check out Saiff Solutions.