Top 10 Must-Know Tips For Tech Writers

By Danielle Russell

Tech-writing is a tricky business. Since this industry is not a very high profile one, there's not much sport around. Follow these 10 quick tips, and you'll be well on your way to a satisfying tech-writing career.

Follow a career path that's sensible. Starting in a team is good idea. You should stay long enough Manage yourself Managing a team is also a good option. Depending on the market, you can go contracting.

Knowledge is your lifeblood, learn the politics of your company. Know the people who know about certain things. You need to find someone who give you timely, technical, reliable, and accurate answers regularly and when you do, get their name tattooed on your shoulder. Every company has at least one. And they may not be in the project manager/product manager/customer/programmer roles. Generally, these are people who have used the product in the real world and they have experience in dealing with real world customers.

Make sure to communicate WITH and not AT. Tech-writers don't have enough power to get away with communicating at.

Track stuff (take spreadsheet printout and write it up on the board).

Develop good product and domain knowledge - The more you can figure out for yourself, the better off you'll be (and the more respect you'll get from the techies).

You need to find out certain things such as who your users are, what they are trying to do, and what they are having trouble doing as well as how they would want to be helped. This assistance should be provided. It's important that you help the user do what they are trying to do. A help system is also helpful if it addresses the users' needs so don't just tell them what the product can do.

Treat everyone as a customer. Then manage their expectations and your commitments. Always ensure they know what you're doing. Let them know when you will be finished. Meeting your deadline is your priority so pull out all the stops.

A surrogate testing mechanism for the development team that has usability feedback must be provided.

In order to get satisfaction out of the work that you need, you need to work as hard as required to get good quality doco finished on time and to budget.

Have fun with it.

Don't allow the high-tech, harsh, and uncaring IT world make you jaded and cynical. Use your smarts, and make the most of the resources provided. Most importantly of all, make work satisfaction your number 1 goal. It's the best way to stay happy and get ahead.

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