Translating Tech: Technical Writing Tips

From documentation to how-to text, technical writing can seem dry, stuffy, boring, or confusing – yet writers who speak tech can earn good money. Firms that hire technical writers need individuals who can cut through the jargon surrounding a product or topics, pick out the essential details – such as technical specifications or workflow tips – and communicate them clearly and efficiently, using plain English. If you’re looking to expand your content services into this area of writing, or improve existing tech skills, try these tips.

Be Goal-Oriented

Technical writing goals include developing documentation, maintaining internal communications such as a wiki or knowledge base, developing a product how-to, and communicating product specifications. With each project you undertake, highlight the goals. Use them as a touchstone to avoid going off base in your work.

Write to the Average Reader

Knowing your audience is one of the biggest tips for tech success. Are you developing a technology primer for incoming college students, with an audience of low to average tech-speak ability? Or writing documentation for a new app or program, with an audience of developers and designers? Use language your target audience will understand. When in doubt, speak to the lowest level. More advanced learners can skim parts they know, but low learners will become frustrated or feel lost if you don’t target them in your writing.

Integrate Media

In your tech writing, take advantage of existing media that help tell your story. If the client has product demos on YouTube, link to them. For software tutorials, take screen shots that demonstrate steps the user will take. Upload the screenshots into your text to better guide novice users. If applicable, include contact or help information where your readers can learn more about the topic at hand.

Stay Current

Keep an eye on popular tech columns or blogs, such as Mashable or GigaOM. Read through articles on the latest tech trends, social networks, and smartphones. You’ll gain an ear for rhythms of more popular or newsy tech writing, and will keep abreast of trends. Your knowledge of tech companies and trends will come in handy when you need to pitch to potential clients.

This area of content writing is enjoyable and exciting, because change is constant! When starting out, understand that you don’t need to know everything to succeed, but you do need to be willing to learn.

Lindsey D is a freelance writer available on WriterAccess, a marketplace where clients and expert writers connect for assignments.


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