Technology Writing: You Don’t Have to be a Geek to be Successful
Contrary to popular perception among writers, you really don’t need to be a geek to write about technology. Often, authors who offer freelance writing services shy away from writing about technology because they do not have a technical background or assume they won’t understand the technology. That’s a mistake: writing about technology really is not very different in principle from writing about any other topic. Plus technology writing jobs typically pay better than other freelance writing opportunities. Here are four tips to keep in mind when approaching freelance technology writing opportunities:
Technology Writing is Different From Technical Writing
Content writers sometimes tend to conflate technical writing with technology writing, but the two are really quite different. Technical writers work with engineers, scientists, and other technical experts to prepare things like product documentation, support manuals, and technical whitepapers. Such writing can be highly lucrative, but you really do need to have the technical chops to do it. Many technology writers are engineers themselves or have an academic background in science and technology. A technology writer on the other hand writes mainly about the business and use of technology. For example, while a technical writer might write the product documentation for a smartphone, a technology writer might write about the market demand for the smartphone, customer reaction to the smartphone, or how the smartphone compares to rival products.
While it is good to have a broad interest in gadgets and gizmos and be curious about them, you don’t need to be a technophile to be a technology writer.
Don’t Be Shy to Ask Questions or Dig Deep
There is no shame in admitting you don’t know something when writing or reporting a technology story. The technology world is filled with jargon that can be totally bewildering to the uninitiated. Is it ROM or is it RAM? What’s the difference between a gigabyte and a terabyte and what in heaven’s name is this cloud-computing thing we all keep hearing so much about. If you don’t know something, ask around or read up. There are plenty of resources on the Internet and elsewhere for you to hone up on a technology. Spend sometime reading up on the technology you have to write about. Once you have the fundamentals down, you’d be surprised how quickly you can become proficient in a specific technology.
Dumb It Down
Don’t use jargon, yourself. Sometimes, technology-writers resort to filling their stories with arcane technical terms and abbreviations because they think it makes them appear smart. In reality, all that jargon does is to bog a story down. Your readers often will simply skip over things they don’t recognize or get frustrated to the point where they will just stop reading your carefully-crafted masterpiece. To be a successful freelance technology writer, you need to be adept at taking any technology and explaining it to someone in simple, laymen’s terms. As a reader, would you find it easier to understand what a solid-state disk drive is or what a computer storage device is?
Try to Find a Voice
One way to preventing people from tuning out is to give your stories some edge. Technical writers should not hesitate to inject their own voice and personality into technolocy articles. Snark and humor work well when crafting a technology story, but don’t force it. Try to think of the reader as someone you know. What voice would use to explain something to him or her? Inject that same personality into your writing.
Gladdys V is a freelance writer available for projects at WriterAccess.