“Technical writing” is writing that sets forth instructions, explains a process, or communicates important information. It is different from writing that argues, persuades, or advocates. If you have enjoyed explaining to your grandparents how Spotify works, or writing down an idiot-proof version of your favorite stir-fry recipe, or creating an easy-to-follow procedure for members of your RSO, you might find satisfaction in a technical writing career. Many different fields and industries require technical writers. Some qualities that characterize a good technical writer:
- The ability to write clearly and concisely.
- Close attention to detail.
- People skills: the ability to function as part of a team, interview subject-matter experts, and listen to end-users.
- A talent for breaking a big idea down into component parts.
- The capacity to learn new subject matter quickly.
Getting a full-time position as a technical writer generally requires experience, as demonstrated through writing samples. Alumnus Mike Slavin, now a technical writer for Sailpoint, offers some advice on creating a technical writing portfolio here.
Here are some ways to get technical writing experience:
- Apply for an ATLAS internship. ATLAS often has positions requiring writing skills that will help you learn to use your writing abilities in a technical setting. No experience is required for ATLAS internships! Many of these positions are paid.
- Find an open-source project on GitHub and volunteer to write documentation for it. GitHub has some great resources to help you understand what “documentation” means and how to do it well. If you aren’t sure what GitHub is or how to get started with it, follow the link anyway — the best way to learn technical writing is just to plunge in.
- Use online resources to get familiar with some key terminology and concepts: Darwin Information Typing Architecture (learn about it here) and Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (learn about it here)
- Take a LinkedIn course.
Interested, but not sure how to get started? Make an appointment at the HPRC. We can help connect you to alumni for advice and mentoring, give you help getting your writing samples together, and suggest some next steps.