Today, we do not venture on the road without a GPS device or a map, and, the same way, we do not want to buy a product without its user guide. How do we know that our printer is connected to the computer ? Which button do we need to press to turn on the car radio ? How do we change the phone’s battery ? Such questions technical writers would be able to answer.
They are the creators of the user guides of the devices you are using. They did not assemble or imagine the pieces, but they made you able to understand why these pieces exist. They translate and interpret engineers, they create brochures and technical specifications. Sometimes, they even create video tutorials so you get access to more details and illustrations. In short, they are everywhere. They are multitasking : “technical writer” is not necessarily how they are called but they are still the reason why you do not need to go back to the store to ask how to use your coffee machine.
However, becoming a technical writer is not as easy as it sounds. Trainings are required to learn how to utilize the most commonly used (and demanded) software in companies and to learn how to structure the information.
You need to be concise. The user must be able to easily and quickly find the piece of information he needs. I mean, he already only reads the user guide because he is stuck (“why isn’t this drill more intuitive ?”), he does not want to also lose any time looking for the answer he needs.
Technical knowledge – in particular industrial knowledge – can be an added value for this job if you want to work in fields such as industry, defense, aeronautics, etc. However, this knowledge will not be needed in fields such as software development.
The technical writer can produce several types of documentation : software (how to use the software functionalities or the video game options), hardware and equipment (description of the product, its use, etc.), training programs (intended for trainers power points, video tutorials, etc.), or what is called RedacTech 2.0 (online help, management of wikis and FAQs…).
Thus, young technical writing students from all backgrounds do not need to be expert in a specific field to find a job, but having a bit of knowledge in several fields will allow them to have many open doors. As the profession is becoming increasingly better-known, there is no shortage of job offers at the moment. According to the candidates’ tastes, career opportunities in large aerospace companies, in SMEs or even in the army are entirely possible.
Although the market keeps expanding in France, technical writing is already well-known abroad and interesting job offers are available (provided you are comfortable with English, but also with other foreign languages such as German or Spanish).
To conclude on this awesome job, it is important to remember that “technical writing is the art and science of translating technical information into readable, accessible writing usable by a wide audience.” (Universal Class).
Written by Julie Daval
Translated by David Loury