Hiring a technical writer is no easy task. It’s not the same as going out and looking for a blog post writer. When you’re looking for someone to write blog posts, their portfolio and experience is broken down by niche. So a fitness writer is going to excel in fitness post writing, but what does a technical writer excel in?
Simply put, there is no easy way to know the level of expertise of a technical writer unless they become recognised specialists in their field.
What is a Specialist Technical Writer?
This is a title that can be defined as a few different things. It is sometimes misconceived as a result of the multiple meanings behind the term.
Basically a specialist technical writer may be someone who either:
- Specialises in a particular type of technical documentation, such as patent applications or contract writing.
- Specialises in document specification and sometimes is referred to as a ‘document specialist’ instead of a ‘technical writer’.
Understanding the difference between the two is very important. You may be able to hire a technical documentation specialist to handle specification work, but the same isn’t usually true in reverse.
This is all pretty simple and the difference between the two should be fairly easy to understand. In most cases, you are merely looking at a technical writer that specialises in a particular type of writing – specialising in document specification is just one example, though it distances itself from other types of technical writing.
Skills of a Specialist vs. Generalist Technical Writer
The skills that a specialist technical writer possess are a lot more advanced than a generalist technical writer. This is because they meet all the standards of the technical documentation that they are responsible for creating.
A major difference in skillset is noticed amongst specialist writers that handle technical specification. This is the backend writing that is often used when manufacturing or developing a product, dealing with investors and other high-up staff, or when making a request for patenting.
Under those circumstances, a specialist technical writer will have a much greater understanding of the terminology used by the business they are working with. They will have a good grasp of everything in place within the business as it relates to the content they will produce. They will also have a good working relationship with members of staff as they will often have to get information from them.
Should You Hire a Specialist?
A specialist technical writer will put a lot more effort into the planning part of the project. They will ensure that the final piece is as accurate as possible. The end result will be documentation that is a perfect fit for its intended use.
A generalist technical writer can still create quality technical content, but he is better at handling the layman terms. He may be effective at functional specification, which is technical documentation that is designed for the users of the product. This type of material often takes the technical “this is how it works” document and breaks it down into layman terms for the user. However, functional specification is often given to testers, stakeholders, and developers.
Ultimately, the specific content need will dictate whether a specialist technical writer is right for the job or not. These are high-level experts who only need to be taken on for the most technical of writing assignments, so be clear and concise with your needs and source the work accordingly.
If you are still confused, working with a technical writing company will make the process easier – they will be able to explain exactly what type of writer you need for the job.