As the name might imply, technical writers write a variety of technical materials including equipment manuals and instructions. There are two sets of skills that technical writers typically must possess. The first skill set is technical know-how. Technical writers use a variety of desktop publishing programs to manipulate images and create graphics and tables, as well as format documents to industry-appropriate specifications.
Programs used by technical writers, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, might include:
- Graphics programs like Adobe Creative Suite or Corel
- Microsoft Office Suite
The other important skill is critical thinking. Technical writers should be able to clearly convey and explain a variety of complex information. The intended audience for technical writing can sometimes be subject matter experts. Other times they can be a lay audience. As a result, technical writers may have to learn enough about a particular topic to ensure the material they produce is accurate. They also should be able to tweak material depending on the audience's familiarity with the subject.
Online Technical Writing Course Structure
Technical writing courses typically cover a wide variety of subjects. Common coursework, according to a review of various training course curricula, includes:
- Different types of technical documentation: project plans, tutorials, usability tests, etc.
- Audience analysis and evaluating user requirements
- Copyediting techniques
- Composition and basic writing skills
- Techniques for document development
Types of Online Technical Writing Courses
Of course, the software used by technical writers comes with instructions (written by technical writers) whether in print or via the help menu. Additionally, courses may also be available from services such as Coursera or even YouTube videos. However, online courses offered by traditional universities are likely to cover the concepts and skills most likely to be used in the technical writing profession.
"Technical Writers: Occupational Outlook Handbook," U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, September 3, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/media-and-communication/technical-writers.htm
"Courses - Technical and Professional Writing Program - College of Liberal & Creative Arts," San Francisco State University, September 3, 2014, http://tpw.sfsu.edu/tpw/node/85
"General Course Descriptions | Department of English and Comparative Literature," San Jose State University, September 3, 2014, http://www.sjsu.edu/english/undergraduate/gencourse/index.html#e107
"Technical Writing Seminar," UCR Extension, September 3, 2014, https://www.extension.ucr.edu/enroll/catalog/olr_course_details.php?crsid=4800
"Overview, Technical Writing and Communication," Carnegie Mellon University Department of English, July 27, 2014, http://www.cmu.edu/hss/english/undergraduate/bs-tw/curriculum/index.html
"Bachelor of Science in Technical Communication," Northeastern University College of Professional Studies, July 27, 2014, http://www.cps.neu.edu/degree-programs/undergraduate/bachelors-degrees/bachelors-technical-communication.php
"Bachelor of Science Technical Communication," ASU Online Undergraduate Programs, July 27, 2014, http://asuonline.asu.edu/online-degree-programs/undergraduate/bachelor-science-technical-communication