A day in the life of a Technical Writer
Before I go ahead and explain a typical day in the life of a Technical Writer, let me give the definition of a Technical Writer, a technical writer is one who makes complex things look simple, Ok, now that’s a pretty strong statement, let me explain why I said this. When you come across an application or software which is difficult to use, the first thing you do is check for its documentation and, most of the times, the document will help you in some way or the other.
How do we writers gather Information?
Much of the writers work is dependent on how they interact with people and extract the required information from them. The main source of information for a writer is product demo and subject matter experts. Product demos provide the writer with a basic understanding of the product. The subject matter expert answers all the questions the technical writer has, mind you, we writers do have a lot of questions! don’t take my word on this J you can ask your SME’s.
Writers also gather information from defect tracking tools like Bugzilla. These tools are very helpful while documenting release notes and Knowledge base articles. The writers provide the problem description in the tool and request the reviewers to provide their feedback; based on the review feedback the writers modify the document’s content.
Behind the Scenes – What a writer does apart from Writing
Apart from writing the documents, the writer performs many other things like:
- Works with the editorial in preparing technically & grammatically correct documents
- Interacts with the Release Manager and completes the documentation activities
- Ensures that the documents are localized and ready to publish
- Works with the development team for generating the in-product help files
Note that the write has to account for all these functions in the documentation plan; this helps the product manager to align the documentation plan with the project plan.
A typical day in the life of a Technical Writer starts with a glance at the Inbox. We check the status of our Project and based on that we start our work, a documentation project can be in any of the following states:
Initial Phase – In this phase, based on the project’s requirement the writer prepares a documentation plan which describes the technical publications requirements and expectations for creating and delivering the product documentation. A documentation plan contains the following information:
- Project Description
- Schedule and Writer Resources
- Summary of Deliverables
- Risks and Assumptions
- Reviewers and Team Members
Intermediate Phase – In this phase, the writer has to be ready with the first draft copy of all the documents, this stage also requires the writer to interact with the subject matter experts. The subject matter experts educate the writer about the product and its features.
Final Phase – In this phase the writers have to be ready with the final draft of the documents. Before publishing the documents on the company website, the writers should ensure that the documents have completed the editorial as well as Technical review.
Technical writing requires a lot of patience, you need to write and re-write till you get it right, we all are taught how to write from an early age, but what we write might not be understood by others. It is this challenge which makes Technical Writing a fabulous job, everyone can write, but only a technical writer can write it in a way in which you can understand.