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Skills Needed to Create Technical Documentation Cheat Sheet (DRAFT) by [deleted]

Skills Needed to Create Successful Technical Documentation

This is a draft cheat sheet. It is a work in progress and is not finished yet.


Like in any profes­sion, becoming a technical writer requires a mastery of certain skill sets. The following are the top six skills a modern day technical writer needs to bring to the table to be a succes­sfully develop technical docume­nta­tion:

1.Writes clearly, concisely, and precisely.

The ability to write well and convey inform­ation to the intended audience in an easily understood manner is the primary prereq­uisite. Docume­ntation usability signif­icantly decreases if readers struggle with the content.

2. Proficient in using the tools of the trade.

Being computer savvy is a given. Technical writers and instru­ctional designers also need to be able to learn quickly and become proficient in using computer applic­ations associated with producing docume­nta­tion.

3. Able to select the proper support visuals

Able to select the proper support visuals needed to enhance the written word. In the digital era, it's important for the technical writer to be able to contribute to graphics and formatting as well as illust­ration skills. This adds to the writer's skill set. It's common for the technical writer to collab­orate with the subject matter expert (SME) to obtain engine­ering drawings and the illust­rator to design and develop the needed support graphics. Technical writers are often respon­sible for taking their own photog­raphs too.

4. Natural curiosity for learning how things work.

Has a natural curiosity for learning how things work. The technical docume­ntation skill of a technical writer depends greatly on the subject matter, product, or service that requires docume­nta­tion. Most writers expand their knowledge through experience in the profession or by taking specia­lized technical writing training

Technical Writin­g-M­ana­gement

5. Knows how to ask questions and learn

Knows how to ask questions and learn from the answers. Intera­cting with SMEs is one the most overlooked skills. Technical writers have to be part journalist and part invest­igative reporter. Not being too proud to ask the "dumb technical questi­ons­" that make engineers do double­-takes is how you get to the bottom of creating docume­ntation that's truly beneficial to end users. When setting up an interview or review, consider the person­alities and prefer­ences of your SMEs. Make sure you have all your questions ready up front and that you understand the answers before you leave the meeting. If a follow up is needed, schedule it then.

6. Refine the art of patience and persis­tence.

Refine the art of patience and persis­ten­ce. Unless you have patience, you’ll never make it as a technical commun­icator. When it comes to timely turnaround for reviews, most SMEs tend to drag their feet. It’s a delicate balance, but with a little persis­tence, deadlines can be more easily met