A technical writer is basically a business analyst and writer packaged as one. There are many reasons that this statement is true. To put it simply, just think about what a freelance technical writer does day to day. They take on a specific type of technical writing project and have to analyse discrete and systemic aspects of a business, their product, etc., and then they have to do it again with a completely different client.
It’s fair to say that technical writing is one of the toughest tasks out there. So the typical business analyst may struggle with creating this type of documentation. A general writer is also not going to have the level of business experience and analytic understanding required to create completely accurate content.
Every Document is Unique in its Purpose
Technical documentation is not something that can be written with references to past work. In most cases, the technical writer is responsible for doing a lot of research for every single document they create. With pages upon pages of highly technical information to process, the planning usually consumes the majority of their time.
A high quality technical writer will not only spend time gathering the right information, but also spend time finding the right terminology. Every word has a precise definition and the right or wrong wording can make all the difference in a technical document.
Interviews with Clients
Technical writers often have to interview their clients. Sometimes this is needed more than once for the same project. The reason for this is simple – the technical document needs to be 100% accurate.
As the technical writer is purely a writer with experience in that form of technical documentation, they don’t have any specific background with the information that they are covering. It’s not the same as a fitness writer who is also a personal trainer; at best a technical writer will have a background in business or experience in the same field of business as their client.
These interviews will be conducted to ensure that all information is correct and no information is missing. This open line of communication is essential if you want the final document to be perfect.
Typical Processes of a Technical Writer
It can be a little hard to picture exactly what a technical writer does. To make it a bit easier to understand, here is an example of the steps that a technical writer goes through:
- Identify the educational background of the reader in relation to the subject matter
- Create a mission statement to identify the main intention of the document
- Perform research and analysis to gather information to back this statement up
- Interview the client to ensure all information is accurate and ready to implement
- Create a rough draft and present it to their client for review
There may be mini-steps that are taken within each of these steps, of course. There’s an old saying that a technical writer spends 1% of their time actually writing. So you can imagine that there will be a lot of processes that they will go through while developing the content, gathering information, and conversing directly with the client.
There is also a lot of effort involved to ensure that all standards and specifications are met. The writer needs to take the time to learn specific processes and complex theories: For instance, when writing about how a type of software works the writer will need to convey specific details pertaining to the programming and non-visible processes of the program.
Basically, a technical writer has to act as a business analyst because they are going to need to analyse the business or part of it in order to create quality documentation. So in order for him to do that, he must put himself in the shoes of a business analyst and must think as a business analyst.
It is important that you understand the level of analytic research involved with technical document creation prior to hiring a technical writing expert. This is because there will be a lot of information and documentation that the writer may need before getting started to ensure that the finished product is perfect.