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Technical writing is not a career for the faint-hearted. Technical writing can be challenging, time-consuming, and, at times, even frightening. The mere thought of spending your day writing about technical subjects can feel like being locked in a cage with hungry tigers. And yet technical writers are some of the most indispensable people in tech companies, and your role as a technical writer is very important in the software development industry.
Your work as a technical writer is to make it easier for other professionals to understand how software products work and how they can be used to solve specific problems. Technical writers are the grease that makes the cogs of a company’s machine run smoothly. Technical writers document processes, procedures, features, specifications, and APIs so that developers don’t have to waste their time figuring out how something works or its usage.
If you’re also trying to find your place in tech as an engineer but with a slightly different approach than others take, there are many benefits of being a technical writer that you should know about before you make up your mind either way.
In this article, I will discuss the meaning and five benefits of technical writing for you as a developer.
Let’s dive in
What is Technical Writing?
Technical writing is about communicating information clearly and in a way that will be useful to the recipient or audience. This is one of the most vital skills any technical professional can have, and it is key to promotion and advancement over the long term in your career.
While most people think of things like requirements documents, user manuals, and technical documentation when they think of technical writing, the reality is that software professionals use technical writing skills every day.
You will still have to communicate with your bosses, co-workers, and subordinates if you never write any documentation or manuals, write comments to codes, give instructions, state policies and procedures, and explain complex technical information.
What are the benefits of technical writing to developers?
Here are five benefits I've come across as a developer by learning technical writing with a software development career.
Everything is in Writing
The most important thing to understand about technical writing is that it’s all about documentation. Everything you write will be read by others and by yourself sometimes when you need to refresh your memory about a particular product feature. This is why some people think technical writing is not a real job requiring skill and effort.
But in fact, it requires a lot of skill to write documents that are concise, accurate, and easy to read for developers who aren’t native English speakers or who don’t have a background in your product. The best way to ensure everything is written down is to use a collaborative document-management tool like Google Docs or a wiki CMS like Mediawiki. You can also use more robust software like Jira or Trello to plan your documentation and track progress.
Ensuring quality and accuracy is easy.
Whenever you write documentation, you have to be careful to ensure that you’re not only providing the right information but that you’re also writing in a tone and style that your audience will understand. These audiences aren’t just human readers but also machines that must understand a feature and how to use it. This means you have to write in a way that computers can understand and read, like source code.
It can be daunting for developers to try writing documentation that encourages the right tone and contains enough information without being too verbose or difficult to understand. Fortunately, technical writing doesn’t require a developer to switch to writing. The technical writer can instead focus on making the content easy to understand and accurate so that the developer doesn’t have to worry about their writing style getting in the way of their task.
You can spend more time developing instead of writing
The most obvious benefit of being a technical writer is that you can spend more time developing instead of figuring out how to describe what you do. You’ll be able to focus on writing documentation and explaining to your team how a feature works and how it can be used to solve a problem.
The most senior technical writers at a company are experts in the product or software being developed and very familiar with the development process. You can use this by asking for feedback or help to improve your documentation or write more effective code.
You’ll learn a lot about your company and its products
Another benefit of being a technical writer is learning a lot about your company and its products. You’ll discover the features being developed and how they work. You’ll even have time to test these features before they’re released to the public.
You can also ask your team questions about how things work and participate in discussions about the future of the product. You’ll be more integrated with your team and have more opportunities to contribute and become a valuable team member.
It’s easier to find a job as a developer.
Being a technical writer is a great way to transition into a full-time job as a developer because most companies want to hire developers with experience with their products. Technical writers are uniquely positioned because they spend most of their time using the product and writing about how it works. This is the same type of work that developers do. You can also write about how to use the product and publish tutorials and guides on how to use it so that other people can benefit from your work.
If you’re struggling to find your place in tech, consider becoming a technical writer. The technical writing field is in demand, and the benefits include everything from learning about your company to spending more time developing. You don’t have to be a writer to succeed as a technical writer.
You must learn how to document different features and products and be consistent with your work. You don’t have to suffer in silence while being overwhelmed by the challenge of technical writing, you can instead thrive in the field and make a difference to your company and product by sharing your knowledge with others in a way they can understand.