A technical writer (also called a technical communicator) is a professional writer who engages in technical writing and produces technical documentation. The Institute of Scientific and Technical Communicators has defined the profession as preparing information which helps users. This documentation includes online help, user guides/manuals, white papers, design specifications, system manuals, project plans, test plans, etc. Kurt Vonnegut described technical writers as:
- "...trained to reveal almost nothing about themselves in their writing. This makes them freaks in the world of writers, since almost all of the other ink-stained wretches in that world reveal a lot about themselves to the reader."
Engineers, scientists, and other professionals may also produce technical writing, but often hand it off to a professional technical writer for proofreading, editing, and formatting. A technical writer produces technical documentation for technical, business, and consumer audiences.
Skill set 
In addition to solid research, language, and writing skills, a technical writer may have skills in:
- Information design
- Information architecture
- Training material development
- Illustration/Graphic Design
- Website design and management
- User Interfaces
- Business Analysis
Technical writing may be on any subject that requires explanation to a particular audience. The material may be technical—or non-technical such as simple consumer information. A technical writer is not usually a subject matter expert (SME), but possesses and applies expertise to interview SMEs and conduct research necessary to produce accurate, comprehensive documents. Companies, governments, and other institutions typically hire technical writers not for expertise in a particular subject, but for expertise in technical writing, i.e., their ability to gather information and produce well-written documentation.
A good technical writer creates documentation that is accurate, complete, unambiguous, and as concise as possible. Technical writers create documentation in many forms, such as printed, web-based, or other electronic means.
A good technical writer has the ability to create, assimilate, and convey technical material in a concise and effective manner. A technical writer may specialize in a particular area. For example, API writers primarily work on API documents, while other technical writers specialize in electronic commerce, manufacturing, scientific, or medical material.
Technical writers gather information from many sources. They must understand quite a bit about the products they describe. Their information sources are scattered all over the company—from developers to marketing and service department. The effort to create this environment means that many technical writers are employees—either of the producers or of service providers.
Roles and Functions 
Effectively Analyze the Rhetorical Situation Creating effective technical documentation is driven by the writer’s analysis of three elements that comprise the rhetorical situation of a particular project: audience, purpose, and context.
- Audience Analysis
- When creating documentation technical writers aim to simplify complex concepts or processes to maximize reader comprehension. The final goal of a particular document is to help readers find what they need, understand what they find, and use what they understand appropriately. To reach this goal technical writers must understand how their audiences use and read documentation. An audience analysis is completed during the document planning process and, because the intended audience varies based on document type, an analysis is conducted at the outset of each document project.
- When analyzing an audience the technical writer must ask themselves:
- • “Who is the intended audience?
- • What are their demographic characteristics?
- • What is the audience’s role?
- • How does the reader feel about the subject?
- • How does the reader feel about the sender?
- • What form does the reader expect?
- • What is the audience’s task?
- • What is the audience’s knowledge level?
- • What factors influence the situation?”
- Accurate audience analysis provides the writer with a set of guidelines that shape the content of the document, the presentation and design of the document (online help system, interactive website, manual, etc.), and the tone and knowledge level of the document.
- The ‘purpose’ refers to the function of a particular communication. A technical writer analyzes the purpose to understand what they want their communication (or document) to accomplish. Determining if a communication aims to persuade readers to “think or act a certain way, enable them to perform a task, help them understand something, change their attitude”, etc., provides the writer with important ‘instructions’ on how they format their communication and the kind of communication they choose (online help system, white paper, proposal, etc.).
- The ‘context’ refers to the “physical and temporal circumstances in which readers will use [a] communication: at their office desks, in a manufacturing plant, during the slow summer months, or in the middle of a company crisis”. Understanding the context of a situation provides the technical writer with important information on how their readers will use their communication. This knowledge will significantly influence how the writer formats the communication. For example, if the document is meant to be a quick troubleshooting guide to the controls on a small watercraft, the writer may consider laminating the pages to increase usability life and decrease deterioration risks associated with water damage.
Document Design Technical writing can be a creative process. Document design is a component of technical writing that is used to increase both readability and usability. Technical writers utilize the following six design strategies when planning and creating their technical communication: arrangement, emphasis, clarity, conciseness, tone, and ethos.
- Arrangement: refers to the order and “organization of visual elements so that readers can see their structure—how they cohere in groups, how they differ from one another, how they create layers and hierarchies”. When considering arrangement technical writers look at how to utilize headings, lists, charts, and images to increase usability.
- Emphasis: refers to how important sections of a document are displayed through “prominence or intensity of expression”. When considering emphasis technical writers look at how they can show readers important sections, warning, useful tips, etc. through the use of placement, bolding, colour, and type size.
- Clarity: refers to strategies used to “help the receiver decode the message, to understand it quickly and completely, and, when necessary, to react without ambivalence”. When considering clarity the technical writer strives to reduce visual noise, such as low contrast ratios, overly complex charts or graphs, and illegible font, all of which can hinder reader comprehension.
- Conciseness: refers to “the visual bulk and intricacy of the design—for example, the number of headings and lists, lines and boxes, colours and grey scales; the detail of the drawings and data displays; the variations in the size, ornateness, and spacing of the text”. Technical writers must consider all of these design strategies to ensure their documents are easy to use and read.
- Tone: refers to the sound or feel of a document. Document type and audience will dictate whether the communication should be formal and professional or lighthearted and humorous. In addition to language choice, technical writers set the tone of technical communication through the use of spacing, images, typefaces, etc.
- Ethos: refers to the “degree of credibility that visual language achieves in a given rhetorical situation”. Technical writers strive to create professional and error-free documentation to establish credibility with their audience.
Technical writers can have various job titles, including Technical Communicator, Information Developer, or Technical Documentation Specialist. In the United Kingdom and some other countries, a technical writer is often called a technical author or knowledge author.
Technical writers normally possess a mixture of technical and writing abilities. They typically have a degree or certification in a technical field, but may have one in journalism, business, or other fields. Many technical writers switch from another field, such as journalism—or a technical field such as engineering or science, often after learning the required skills through technical communications classes.
Methodology (Document Development Life Cycle) 
To create a technical document, a technical writer must understand the audience, the purpose, and the product. They also gather information by studying existing material, interviewing SMEs, and/or actually using the products to be documented, as well as studying the audience to learn their needs and technical understanding level.
A technical publication's development life cycle consists of five distinct phases, which are coordinated with the overall product development plan:
- Phase 1: Information gathering and planning
- Phase 2: Content specification
- Phase 3: Content development and implementation
- Phase 4: Production
- Phase 5: Evaluation
The document development life cycle also consists of six distinct phases (This will change organization to organization, how they are following).
- Step 1: Audience Profiling (Identifying Target Audience, who are the users)
- Step 2: User Task Analysis (Analyse the task/information based on Target Audience)
- Step 3: Information Architecture (Design based on Analysis , how to prepare document)
- Step 4: Content Development (Develope/prepare the Document)
- Step 5: Technical and Editorial Reviews (Review with Higher Level Persons Like: PLs/Delivery Managers etc.)
- Step 6: Formatting and Publishing (If Review is success , then publish the document).
This is quite similar to Software Development Life Cycle Process.
Well-written technical documents usually follow formal standards or guidelines. Technical documentation comes in many styles and formats, depending on the medium and subject area. Printed and online documentation may differ in various ways, but still adhere to largely identical guidelines for prose, information structure, and layout. Usually, technical writers follow formatting conventions described in a standard style guide. In the US, technical writers often use the Chicago Manual of Style (CMS). Many companies have internal corporate style guides that cover specific corporate issues such as logo use, branding, and other aspects of corporate style. The Microsoft Manual of Style for Technical Publications is typical of these.
Engineering projects, particularly defense or aerospace related projects, often follow national and international documentation standards—such as ATA100 for civil aircraft or S1000D for civil and defense platforms.
Technical writers often work as part of a writing or project development team. Typically, the writer finishes a draft and passes it to one or more SMEs who conduct a technical review to verify accuracy and completeness. Another writer or editor may perform an editorial review that checks conformance to styles, grammar, and readability. This person may request for clarification or make suggestions. In some cases the writer or others test the document on audience members to make usability improvements. A final production typically follows an inspection checklist to ensure the quality and uniformity of the published product.
Career growth 
A technical writer has no standard career path, per se, but technical writers may move into project management over other writers. A writer may advance to a senior technical writer position, handling complex projects or a small team of writers and editors. In larger groups, a documentation manager might handle multiple projects and teams.
Technical writers may also gain expertise in a particular technical domain and branch into related forms, such as software quality analysis or business analysis. A technical writer who becomes a subject matter expert in a field may transition from technical writing to work in that field.
Technical writers with expertise in writing skills can join printed media or electronic media companies, potentially providing an opportunity to make more money and/or improved working conditions.
Employment of technical writers is expected to grow 17 percent from 2010 to 2020, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Job opportunities, especially for applicants with technical skills, are expected to be good.
- Tom Johnson
- Sarah O’Keefe
- Scott Abel
- Bill Swallow
- Alan Houser
See also 
- Collaborative editing
- Software documentation
- Technical communication
- Technical communication tools
- Technical writing
- Burton, S (2007). "From the executive director: Confronting change" (pdf). Retrieved 2009-09-23.
- David Farbey, Technical writer career information at the official website of the Institute of Scientific and Technical Communicators. Accessed February 28, 2013.
- Gary Blake and Robert W. Bly, The Elements of Technical Writing, pg. 3. New York: Macmillan Publishers, 1993. ISBN 0020130856
- Kostelnick, Charles (2011). Designing Visual Language. New York, NY: Longman. p. 400. ISBN 978-0-205-61640-4.
- Riordan, Daniel (2005). Technical Report Writing Today. Boston, MA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning. p. 606. ISBN 978-0-618-43389-6.
- Hackos, JoAnn T. (1994). Managing Your Documentation Projects. Wiley. p. 630. ISBN 0-471-59099-1.
- Tarutz, Judith A. (1992). Technical Editing. New York: Perseus Books. p. 456. ISBN 0-201-56356-8.
- Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition, Technical Writers, on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/media-and-communication/technical-writers.htm (visited February 22, 2013).
- 2013 Top 100 Influencers in #techcomm at http://www.mindtouch.com/blog/2013/04/04/2013-influencers-in-techcomm
- International standards for technical writers
- Descriptions and links to standards for technical writers
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