The following are the core competencies you need to possess to be a successful writer in your industry:
- Writing skills – Although most writers come from diverse backgrounds, one common trait is good writing skills. As technical writers, you must not expel raw materials but transmute it to provide what the reader most wants by steering away from dangling modifiers, run-on sentences, sentence fragments, split infinitives, etc. that can impede legibility or learning. The objective is to make the readers understand the topic quickly. The readers are not going to spend hours reading the document. A basic principle of good writing style is to abstain from unnecessary words. The shorter, simple words or expressions make your writing more concise and, consequently, make it look and sound more professional. Always provide a brief description of the subject followed by steps to achieve. Provide screenshots where possible. Another primary focus should be to improve your Template. Use numbering if the steps are to be performed in a sequential manner otherwise use bullets. The title and headings should convey the subject matter. The headings, steps, and body text should follow a consistent format.
- Research skills – You must have a passion for research and new technologies. The technical writers are lifelong learners. The one hallmark of the technical writer is the acknowledgment of the room for improvement. There are plenty of domains for technical writing— IT, electronics, oil and gas, pharmacy, science, solar panels or digital gaming but we share the same passion, that is, curiosity.
- Learning new tools and technology – Writers must be willing to master tools that come across their way. The commonly used tools are Word, FrameMaker, RoboHelp, and XMetal. The writers should be familiar with DITA and the ins and outs of content management systems (CMSs).
- Creative skills – Being a technical writer does not mean you stop being creative. There are creative ways to illustrate complex ideas in the form of graphic, video, and audio in addition to content.
- Team building skills – No man is an island. Although, you may be a lone writer in the company, you must collaborate with SMEs, product owners, QA folks to accomplish your goal.
- Interviewing, and listening skills – As part of your job, you must have the mindset of a detective to ask questions. At the end of the day, the most important Technical Writing principle is “If you do not know – ASK”. Writers are expected to ask questions until they are confident that they have the information needed to write content. Just remember, unanswered questions contribute ambiguity to the content and add risk to the business. You can gather information via different ways such as email, Skype, Adobe shared review process, or set up a meeting room to discuss and build consensus when there are conflicting opinions. You need to have good listening skills and allow the SMEs to talk while you take notes or record the meeting to digest rapid explanations.