As a Technical Author, I have always heard it said that: ‘anyone can write so “why do I need a Technical Author?”
A successful professional technical author will tell you there are many facets to the job and the writing takes only a fraction of our day.
The qualities required by a technical author is
- a sense of humour and
- people skills
Combine those qualities with those below and what do you get?
- Communication skills
- the ability to understand technical concepts including IT Networks.
- Use a variety of tools to create well-structured documentation that an audience uses
- write for a specific audience
You have a professional capable of doing and knowing far more than you might anticipate.
Therefore, technical authoring could be more of a challenge than you think. In fact, you might consider technical authors a ‘rare breed.’
What is Technical Authoring
Technical Authoring is concise and to the point. We are not novelists describing a beautiful character down to her laughter lines. A poorly written novel will not hold the attention of a reader; the same goes for badly written technical documentation. A user wants to read the document and go ahead with confidence and/or understand the function of multiple servers and Operating systems within a large infrastructure and/or explain a process or function within a few sentences. We can create a document from the viewpoint of the reader simply by listening to the user and offering a document(s) based on the best solution.
Technical writing is – as it explains on the box – technical. Apart from writing, our role is to understand Subject Matter Experts, written technical material and translate that content into a language that a technophobe will understand. It also helps if a technical author can verbally explain the material or present it in a diagrammatical form.
Of course, to explain the technicalities of a software product, a gadget, an App, or a significant IT infrastructure – we must understand the concept ourselves. We cannot explain what we do not understand.
So, for our audiences out there we produce documentation in several formats in such a way, to get the message across to our many audiences. Therefore, after what I have written – you too will be an expert. Give yourself a hand.
Key elements to technical authoring
Consistency is the key to successful documentation; that means we keep the English simple and well written. We provide Glossaries to help readers understand the terminology used within the document.
Formatting document headers with the same font size and tables and drawings labelled the same way are important.
From using Excel spreadsheets, Template creation, document versioning, documentation content and types of material, clear document titles and subjects – working with either a shared drive or a document management system and talking to SMEs every day your average technical author is a ‘rare breed’ indeed.
If you have not already read my post titled “Technical Authors are not easy to find’ you will find that should you need our ability – it is a profession which does not attract many candidates. That is another discussion!