Just how to Succeed as a Technical Writer
Just how to Succeed as a Technical Writer
Just how to Succeed as a Technical Writer Your opportunities of success is past your wildest creative imaginations if you have terrific interest for words and also have a level or diploma in any kind of innovation area.
You can be component of that clan of authors around, that make anything from a thousand bucks to numerous thousands on a monthly basis from creating technological posts online for freelance sites, developing their brand names as well as obtaining seen.
It’s a truly remarkable area of creating. All you require is some skill in composing, which many of us naturally have.
In order to prosper, the most crucial point is your brand name. These internet sites provide you a system to reveal off your benefit and also obtain sales for the web content you make.
Instances of the most effective freelance web sites are Guru.com, Elance.com, getafreelancer.com, therefore lots of others. You might simply do a search from Google and also you will certainly come across a countless them.
What you require to do well?
Do not review any kind of common internet magazine. You need to aim tough to discover out the ideal magazines to check out. And also I guarantee you, leading blog owners might not obtain one sentence appropriate!
Look out for genuine resources to check out or those blog sites or websites, which assist you in composing. There are numerous.
Composing anything would certainly not make you effective. All you have to do is recognize what you are composing regarding as well as do an in deepness research study on the subject.
Discover out the crucial details on the innovation you are going to create regarding:
It’s negative aspects and also benefits
It’s problems as well as concerns
It’s advantage on the average individuals
The means individuals might make use of to modify it to their benefit
The means to utilize the device successfully
Any type of problem with specific teams of individuals: like kids, grownups, elderly people, and so on.
Any type of future enhancements
The basic data of the company as well as the solution itself
In any type of covering modern technologies striking the marketplace and also those currently in, these factors are extremely vital.
When you obtain adequate info, need to review with it. Beginning your creating just after you review your study material.
Subject to locate
You can discover out the subject of composing by different ways. The ideal method is by looking at the present modern technology information from Fox News,
Technical writing,technical writing jobs,technical writing certification,what is a technical writer,Technical writing skills,Technical writing examples,
CNN, New York Times, Reuters, BBC World, and so on. What you have to do is checked out via a details fascinating blog post as well as locate out the correct key words.
All the most effective to all those that want to obtain effective technological composing professions.
It’s a truly terrific area of creating. All you have to do is comprehend what you are composing regarding and also do an in deepness study on the subject. Locate out the crucial info on the innovation you are going to compose concerning:
Begin your composing just after you review your study web content.
You can discover out the subject of composing by different methods.
New Technical Writer: Avoiding The Interview-writing Disconnect
Lost or garbled information is a terrible waste. Especially if it’s the information you gathered from an interview and must now write into your User Document. Here’s how to prevent that waste.
You had an interview with a Subject Matter Expert (SME, someone who has the information that you need) for your product. He/she told you all that you needed to know.
However, by the time you got to write the material into the User Document, you have forgotten much of what was discussed.
Your notes only help a bit. This loss or garbling the information from the SME that you need for your writing is the “Interview-Writing Disconnect.”
The solution is divided into three components: Preparation Before the Interview, Actions During, and Following the Interview.
TIP: If possible, schedule the interview as close to the time that you are going to write that part of the User Document. The longer you wait between the interview and the writing, the more difficult it will be to recall the content.
Before the Interview
* Your guiding principle is to Be Prepared. You should have read what you can about the product, its environment, who will use it, and what they (usually) want to do with the product.
Know as much as you can before the interview. The more you know about the product, the better off you will be in the interview.
* Specify the goals of the interview. Share this information with the SME. Do this in an e-mail before the interview.
* Ask the SME if you can (audio; video is too obtrusive) record the interview. Get a recorder (preferably a digital recorder) and make sure it is set up to function properly during the interview.
* Gather any other materials you will need for the interview.
* Set up your recorder, etc quickly when the meeting begins.
* (You might want to practice taking legible notes…I sure need to)
THE HARDEST PART
Leave your ego at the door. (This is really hard.) Don’t make signs that indicate that you understand something that you do not.
Ask questions, get the explanation that you need. Here is something to tell the SME:
“If I ask what sounds like a stupid question, bear in mind that I am acting based on the knowledge that our User has.”
DURING THE INTERVIEW
Record the interview (if permitted).
Start with some overview questions, such as:
* What is this portion of the product (topic) called?
* How does this topic fit in to the product?
* What is this (portion of the product) used for?
* When would someone use this (unless it is “obvious”)?
* What has to be set up before the User can use this part of the product?
* Any other conditions about when this would be used, or when it would be avoided?
After you have the background information, then move on to the actual operation of the part of the product. Ask any questions that you have prepared and any others that come up in the interview.
Remember, if you do not understand something, ask.
Ask some summary questions. Review the steps that you took, saying them out loud in your own words (especially if you are recording the session). Have the SME correct any mistakes that you make.
Ask if there is any related information to this topic. Are there any tips or traps using this part of the product?
MORE ABOUT RECORDING INFORMATION
If the SME points to a part of the product (such as a window in a piece of software, or the control panel of a barbecue) then say out loud what the SME is pointing to.
Say something like “we are looking at the main address book window” or “we are looking at the main burner control.” This will enable you to link what is happening in the interview with the audio tape.
If the SME performs an operation, say what it is. “You just entered the new person’s name, and the ‘New Card’ window appeared.”
Or “You just turned the burner control to the ‘Light’ position, and now the igniter is clicking, and there’s the flame.”
Take notes as well as you can. But do not let any of your activity get in the way of the interview. It’s not a good idea to keep stopping the SME while you catch up with your note taking. You will have the audio recording to fall back on.
The SME might provide handouts for the interview. If you are allowed to, take notes on the handouts. The goal is to link your audio recording and notes and handouts together.
For example, if the SME provides a screen print for a software product, you should link your notes, audio recording and the handout together by reading the title of the handout aloud. Do it as unobtrusively as possible.
AFTER THE INTERVIEW
As soon as possible after the interview, you must go over your notes and handouts. If possible, this should be done within minutes of the end of the interview.
Find a quiet place (perhaps you have access to the interview room after the interview) and go over your notes.
Review your notes and add clarification to them. When you add the material to the notes do it with enough detail so that someone who was not at the meeting will be able to understand it. That person is you in even a day or two!
As soon as you can get to it, take the expanded notes and write them into a draft of that part of the User Document.
That should be within a day or two of the interview, if possible. Every minute’s delay adds to the disconnect between what you learned in the meeting and what you write.
Let your draft sit for a day or so, then review and revise it for clarity and completeness. Consider sending the reviewed and revised version of the draft to the SME for comments.
(You only want comments on the material, not on grammar.)
Schedule time for this writing, even if you are juggling several writing projects. The time you save in not having to recall the information at a later date will be a good investment.
THE BOTTOM LINE
You can avoid or reduce the effects of the Interview-Writing Disconnect by being prepared before the interview, asking questions and taking effective notes during the interview,
and reviewing and writing the material as soon after the interview as possible.
New Technical Writer: Have No Fear Of Writing
You’re a non-writer who has just been assigned to write the User Documentation for your company’s new product. Your overwhelming emotion is fear, perhaps with some anger.
With any new activity there will be some anxiety. Writing may have added anxiety because of your writing experience while you were a student.
Writing User Documentation is not like the writing that you had to do in school. Those activities were filled with anxiety and “writer‘s block.” In this article you will see how to overcome your writing anxieties so you can write a good User Document.
WHAT YOU’RE NOT WRITING
All writing and writing situations are not the same. Let’s differentiate writing a User Document from other types of writing and writing situations.
YOU’RE NOT WRITING A NOVEL
You don’t have to worry about a plot, characters, and techniques to make the writing flow. You do not have to worry about transitions from one section to another; you don’t have to worry about continuity.
It is extremely rare for your Reader to read a User Document from start to finish; Readers usually only look up the information that they need at the time.
YOU’RE NOT ARGUING A POINT
You don’t have to determine a point to argue, think up arguments to support that point, and then convincingly present the arguments.
YOU’RE NOT WRITING A LABORATORY REPORT
While lab reports provided a structure for writing, it was usually over-restrictive and those doing the grading were very picky regarding that format and structure.
YOUR SCHOOL-WRITING EXPERIENCES
At the end of your school writing exercise there was a critic (your teacher). Your goal was to impress him/her with your writing, all the time being extremely careful to write grammatically,
and follow the prescribed structure. Later we will get a “critic” (editor) to be on your side in the writing project.
Writing a User Document is Different. The team is on your side. (I am ignoring office politics.) Everyone wants to have a successful product, and good User Documentation is part of a good product.
Remember that other members of the team are human, also. They have their tasks to complete, and would probably prefer not to have to answer your questions. Be prepared (read background info, etc) before you ask questions.
STRUCTURE MAKES WRITING EASIER
The overall structure of the User Document will follow the interaction between the User and the product. Within that structure you will write components…
pieces of the User Document, each dealing with a specific topic. Each component will have a defined structure: overview/background, the actual material, and additional information.
One benefit of working this way is that you will not be concerned with “writer‘s block.” The primary cause of writer‘s block is having making decisions (“what should I say here?”).
An effective writing structure eliminates most decisions, and reduces your writing task to almost “fill in the blanks.”
In fact, some experienced writers find it difficult to write in a modular environment. They are concerned with writing elegant transitions from one section to another. You do not need to do this…you can write each component totally independently of the others.
Your task is to clearly provide the information that your reader needs, and make that information easily accessible to him/her.
You must cultivate an attitude of compassion for your Readers.
YOU NEED RESOURCES FOR SUCCESS
Whoever assigned you the writing project (your “patron”) is responsible for your success. Your patron should provide resources to assist you. One of the most important resources is an editor.
Your editor (if hired early in the project) can help you over many writing difficulties. For example, your editor can help you with wording problems as you write.
Consult with your editor as you are creating the User Document…not just at the end.
Your editor is not your critic!
Your editor will reduce your worries about grammar and wording. Your editor is on your side; he/she is not an adversary or someone you have to impress (like your school teachers).
Your editor can help you produce a good User Document.
ACCESS TO INFORMATION
Your patron should enable you to have access to the product developers, information about the product (a mockup of the product, marketing information, assumptions about the Users of the product), and the industry.
TIME AND PHYSICAL RESOURCES
You need time to do a good job, and the physical resources to get it done.
If you are in a hurry, and if you do not know any of the current fancy authoring tools and content management systems, do not bother with learning them.
Instead, investigate what your word processor will do. Can it be made to create PDF, HTML, RTF or text files? If so, then it is a fine candidate for this project. Learn how to use its basic capabilities, especially its concept of formatting “styles.”
Typically, documentation is started late in the project’s life cycle. As a result, the documentation production is always rushed.
Taking a live writing course may be out of the question: there will be scheduling problems, and you will be away from the writing task while you are being trained.
A better alternative might be to take a computer-based course that guides you through the writing, and supports you via e-mail.
Visit the links in the “Resources” or “About the Author” section of this article.
YOU NEED A WRITING METHOD
To simply gather the required information, produce an outline that gets approved, and go off to write the document, is a recipe for high-stress and possible failure.
It’s high stress because at the end of your writing, you get everything evaluated at once. There is the fear of failure. Fundamental errors could result in a major re-write. Aaaargh!
Consider writing components (modules, pieces) of your document. Let a component sit for a while, review it, and then circulate it for review. This way you will know that you are on track early in the project.
Since components will usually be short and focused on a particular topic, your reviewers will actually have the time to read and comment on your components.
Just providing a complete, massive document at the end of the project will discourage your reviewers from effectively evaluating the material.
Writing and having reviewed small chunks of text (as opposed to creating the entire document, and then having it reviewed) helps reduce your stress, enabling you to do a better job.
Recall a skill that you have learned. It may be driving a car, riding a bicycle, or solving differential equations. Remember how you got more comfortable as you worked at it.
It is the same with writing your User Document in components. The first few components will be high-stress, since you are new to the process.
As you write and have your components reviewed, you will become comfortable with the process. The later writing will go faster and better because of the reduced stress.
Your review team will know where you are in the writing process; they will see each component as you release it.
Contrast this with writing the entire document and then having it reviewed. Here the stress builds to a maximum at the hand-in and evaluation time. You never know — until the end — if you’ve made a fundamental mistake.
DEALING WITH REVIEWS OF YOUR WRITING
You will have each component reviewed by others on the product project. Consider their suggestions and criticisms of your writing.
However try to leave your ego out of the equation. If a reviewer says “you got this wrong,” you should hear “this is incorrect.” Ask what is incorrect, and get the correct information. Correct the inaccuracies. Don’t be defensive.
If you can overcome your fear of criticism, you will be able to write more and write better. This fear will diminish as you produce (and have reviewed) each of the components.
Learn as much as you can about the product, its environment, and Users. If you are expected to be an expert and are not one, then use the excuse for any naive questions you may ask: “I am just simulating our product’s Users with this question.” (Use this technique sparingly.)
TWO MORE POINTS
Nobody writes the perfect User Document. Don’t strive for perfection. Doing so will prevent you from getting anything done.
Read. Read all sorts of published materials, especially other User Documents (especially for products similar to the one you are writing about). Learn from that writing. Be critical of it from the USER’s point of view.
FIRST THINGS TO DO
Learn as much as you can about the product that you have to write about, its users, and the product’s environment, before you ask questions (other than where to get information).
Visit the links in the “Resources” or “About the Author” section of this article. There you will find articles and resources to help you through this exciting task.