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© Ugur Akinci
First off, a tech writer (TW) should be CURIOUS about the world around her. Without that basic curiosity, there is nothing to explain or document. If you are the type of person who used to break toys and open them up to see how they worked when you were a child, you could make a great TW indeed. Tech writers are true geeks at heart. They are fascinated by science and technology of all kinds.
Secondly, a TW should be a warrior of ORDER and LOGIC and an enemy of CHAOS and DISORDER. A TW presents a world-view that is RATIONAL and EXPLAINABLE. A good TW refuses mystical processes that can not be explained in sequential procedural steps. Even if there are “random processes” involved, a TW would like to know concrete probabilities associated with such seemingly “random” processes.
Third: a TW should be HONEST and TRUTHFUL. Why? Because no matter what else technical writing is, it CANNOT be wrong. It HAS TO BE CORRECT. Therefore, we need to make all the limitations, prerequisites and assumptions about a system or gadget very clear, upfront. There is no room for sleight of hand in technical writing. It is important to note that you can be honest but still wrong 🙂 So one has to be BOTH honest and CORRECT. Lives may depend on it.
Fourth, a TW must be CALM and PATIENT since not everything is immediately clear at the first try or contact. Our world is increasingly becoming a very complicated place. We all love instant gratification but sometimes understanding something takes longer than writing a tweet or posting an Instagram picture. You have to dig in your heels and PERSIST until you understand what’s going on fully. While your understanding deepens, you must not panic or fluster. You have to TRUST yourself that you’ll eventually get it, just like you did in the past.
Fifth — you must ENJOY TEACHING and explaining what you have learned to others. TW is a public service. You have to love sharing what you have learned with others in a PLAIN LANGUAGE so that the others as a result of your writing may CHANGE their BEHAVIORS, SOLVE a PROBLEM or two, and as a result live better and fruitful lives.
Sixth — a TW must be a SOCIAL creature, not afraid to talk to others and interact with SMEs (Subject Matter Experts) since you’ll need them all day long. You must have the instincts of a JOURNALIST to go out and hunt for information, wherever it may be. Compiling data and content requires a lot of social team-work behavior. If you are a hermit, a person who would like to be left alone at all times, the chances are you will not bloom into a great TW.
Seventh — a good TW does not compare herself with novelists or “creative writers” all the time and feel inferior. She is aware that tech writing is not something that we do until “something better” comes along. Tech writers know the kind of positive contribution they are making to the world every day. The airplanes would not fly without pilots trained on technical documents written by (guess who?) technical writers… Corporate teams would flounder and crash without training manuals, SOPs, HR guidelines, operation and user manuals, quick reference guides, and dozens of other types of documents generated daily by (guess whom?) technical writers… A TW is a person HAPPY with what life has brought to him — a chance to make the world a better place through organized and logical content solutions to daily problems.
Is this YOU? I hope it is 🙂 Good luck!
(Image courtesy of Dose Media at Unsplash-dot-com)