User Guides, Manuals, and Technical Writing: A Guide to Professional English

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I am agreeing -- it is not recommended to be using the extremely passive, present tense! I would rewrite that sentence completely as: You may delete servers that do not have customers assigned to them.

Note that I also removed the unnecessary capitaliztion. This depends on who the audience is. If the manual is for the system administrator and the statement is about what his users can do, this would be misleading. If "the users" are the audience, then I agree this is better. I'm a big fan of writing documentation in imperative tense. Sign up or log in Sign up using Google. Sign up using Facebook. Sign up using Email and Password. Post as a guest Name.

Email Required, but never shown. Featured on Meta. Unicorn Meta Zoo 9: How do we handle problem users? Related Hot Network Questions. Question feed. Still unsure if becoming a technical writer is the right career path? Take the free CareerExplorer career test to find out if this career is in your top matches. Perhaps you are well-suited to become a technical writer or another similar career!

Make the most of English classes. Pay attention to how books and articles are organized. Learn how to write clearly, concisely, and accurately. Build computer skills. Learn to use desktop publishing software, to handle graphics, and to write code in HTML. Develop a grounding in the physical and life sciences.

Job candidates with a Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science typically have an edge in the job market. Volunteering is often the first step in creating a portfolio. Prospective technical writers can begin working on their portfolio in high school and continue the process while earning their undergraduate degree. The STC also maintains an active mentor board; students can find a mentor by completing a profile that can be posted on this board. Local businesses may welcome an offer to have someone with a writing background create an instructional manual or technical document for them.

Attending technology seminars, conferences, and events may also lead to opportunities. Working on an open source project is another excellent way to gain experience in the field. The annual project pays selected students a stipend to spend their break writing code and learning about open source development.

Through all of these experiences, students are likely to find mentors and develop a valuable network of contacts. Professional certification is available through the Society for Technical Communication, the largest professional organization for technical writers. The STC certification program is three-tiered. The Foundation certification exam tests knowledge and understanding of best practices in technical communication.

author – lecturer – consultant

The Practitioner certification demonstrates mastery of applying best practices and leading others in their use. This designation is awarded to candidates who pass a written test and an evaluation of one or more pieces of their work. The Expert certification is based on completion of a set of required work products and expert interviews.

In addition to providing industry certification, the STC maintains a large job bank and career center. The American Medical Writers Association offers extensive continuing education programs and certification credentials in medical writing. These certificates are available to professionals in the medical and allied scientific communication fields.


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The key to an effective portfolio is diversity. This is especially true for individuals in freelance versus in-house roles. For all professionals, however, a varied collection of work is vital to showcasing skill and creativity; establishing a reputation; and advancing in the field.

How to become a technical writer ‐ CareerExplorer

Quick user guides, comprehensive manuals, help files, video tutorials, and journal articles are among the work products that should over time be included in a professional portfolio. Technical writers only write about highly technical, scientific, technological, medical, or systematic topics. This is probably the biggest fallacy of all.

The technical information you research and gather has to be shaped for reader interest, understanding, and perception. Technical writers often have to communcate highly technical information to a non-technical audience. Therefore, an early step in the most effective technical writing process is analyzing your audience carefully so you can match information to their needs. Communication skills are imperative to be a successful technical writer.

Traditional Definition of Technical Writing

You will likely be working with multiple teams and individuals from differing roles. It is difficult to clearly convey a concept that you have not mastered. Many technical writers have academic or workplace experience in the topic they are writing about and many technical writers have job titles of engineer, geologist, seismologist, financial analyst, or business analyst.


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They are employed in technical positions and have to summarize information cross-functionally to other areas of the company. Technical writing is slightly easier if you come from the technical side and are learning to write. It is sometimes more difficult if your background is in writing and you are trying to learn the technical content. Excellent writing skills ensure your documents are easy to read and are free of errors.

Writing encompasses many of the other skills on this list. You may be responsible for adding graphics to complement your document. It is important that the graphics aid the reader in comprehending the information. Graphs, tables, and charts are commonplace in technical reports. You will also need to be proficient in formatting documents.

The formatting should be professional and aid the reader in navigating the document. Headings should be easy to skim, and the content should be organized logically.


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  • A poorly designed document will make it more difficult for the reader to understand the content. Document design is a key aspect of technical writing. Today writers must use multiple tools during the technical writing process. This often goes beyond basic text editors. Technical writers are expected to be able to create graphics and annotate images and screen captures and extract data from Excel and convey that data in charts and tables.

    Additionally, they can utilize planning, writing, and editing tools used by business writers. We have compiled a list of our top business writing tools here. Some forms of technical writing may require user research and testing. An example application where detailed research and testing would be appropriate is a written guide instructing engineers how to fix a faulty mechanism on a deep ocean oil rig. It is important that the documentation is easy to follow, especially if the application is crucial to a major function.

    To accurately write the guide, the writer may first observe how engineers solve the problem. They may use recording devices or just notes to write down the research. This type of research is closely related to testing. After the writer has completed a draft of the document, they may give it to a test group to read. They can then observe the end users following the instructions in real time. They may follow-up with a focus group or survey to get feedback on the usefulness of the document.

    Goals of Simplified Technical English

    They will use these real-world insights as they revise the document. Even in less complex or critical applications, it is always a good idea to have a third party read over the text. This helps combat the curse of knowledge. The curse of knowledge is a cognitive bias that an individual has when trying to explain something they already understand. As an expert, it is hard to put yourself in the shoes of the learner who is less experienced. This is why having a second set of eyes look at the document can help alert you to areas that need to be improved.

    Today technology has expanded into every facet of business. Companies continue to develop ever more technical processes in search of higher efficiency and profit. If you work for a company that deals in highly skilled or technical or analytical work, you likely already conduct technical writing. One of the best ways to become a better writer is to read. Reading helps you train your brain to understand how to write. The more you read, the easier writing will become for you. It is critical that you are reading relevant and high-quality documents.

    Look for documents produced by competitors or writers in related industries.

    Find and Hire Freelance User Guide And Manual Writers

    Examine their writing to determine how they organize information through written text. Having a clear workflow will help you systematically accomplish your work. We teach a specific process for technical report writing in our technical writing course.


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