Hiring a technical writer is no easy task. There are many different things to consider if you want to choose the right one, alongside a gargantuan amount of information that you may need to provide for them to accurately get the job done.
So it is important to understand the standards of technical writing, as well as what a technical writer actually does. This article seeks to educate you a little, whist giving you a better idea of who you should hire.
The Number One Standard of Technical Writing
Before getting into the specific types of technical documentation and their subsequent standards, it is important to specify one particular criterion. This is something that needs to be met, for any type of technical documentation…
A technical writer provides technical content. It’s right there in front of you, and yes it is obvious, but it needs to be emphasised.
So, again: a technical writer will be able to provide you with technical content.
Anyone requiring some technical content will go out and hire a technical writer to get the job done. However, they may sometimes end up with bad results, after realising the writer isn’t quite so great after all. But this is due to a misunderstanding – just because someone is a technical writer, it doesn’t mean that they are a document specialist.
The Standards Involved with Document Specification
Document specification is a whole different breed of writing. It involves taking something that’s already technical, in content, and then making it even more technical. So instead of just writing about the specifications of a product, these specifications may be written for investors, patents, policies, manufacturing, and so on.
To accomplish this, the writer must have knowledge and/or experience in the particular subject that they are writing about. Most technical writers will specialise by field, such as electronic commerce or medical material, meaning these writers tend to have a pretty good understanding of the technical jargon usually found within these documents.
However, document specification takes it a step further.
For instance, document specification may encompass creating an outline document, for future technical documentation – a sort of blueprint.
In most cases, document specification is done either at the technical or functional level. Technical specification is intended for processing, procedures, and projects – information for those on the back end. Functional specification is more intended for detailing the finished product – information for the user.
What Counts as Technical Documentation?
Sometimes it may seem that there is a fine line between technical and non-technical documentation, but this usually varies depending on the nature of the content. For instance, technical documentation that’s used to assist with constructing a baby’s crib isn’t really all that technical. On the other hand, the technical documentation that went into manufacturing that crib may be.
A good way of understanding whether something should be classified as technical documentation is by asking yourself, “What did the writer do to write this?”
The answer to this question should give you some good hints.
If the writer had to obtain extensive information and data on the product, then it would fall under technical writing. If the writer could have written the material with just a little cursory research or common sense, then it wouldn’t really be technical writing.
The technical writer does something that the average Joe, and even the average employee at your business, can’t – they turn technical information into understandable, palatable text documents. This serves as an invaluable tool, as businesses always require detailed and accurate policies, instructions, guides, and so on.
What Do You Need?
Do you need to hire a company for guides/technical writing?
If so, make sure you understand just how extensive this service is from the writer’s perspective. You can’t just go in expecting them to pull information out of thin air. You will have to carry out an interview process, provide them with some insight and reference documents… basically, the whole nine yards.
Understanding what a technical writer does and then considering the type of document that you need created, should make it easy enough to get started on the right track. A professional technical writer, with document specification or guide writing experience, will know exactly what to ask before starting the project or during it, if they hit any snags along the way. So don’t worry too much, just be sure to hire the right writer for the job.