What Makes a Good Technical Writer?

What Makes a Good Technical Writer?

Copywriting is a vast industry with numerous niches for different types of writers to pursue. You can specialize in being an SEO specialist, content writer, or even a social media content creator if it suits your affinities as a writer. One subset of copywriting however requires a bit more prep-work on your part before you can delve into it. 

Being a technical writer means writing more technical and corporate content than you would otherwise. White papers, case studies, and long-form blog posts are only some of the writing technical writers could be in charge of. Let’s take a look at what makes a good technical writer so you can get an idea of the skills you should pursue if you’re interested in it.

Technological/Language Education or Certificates

While not necessary, pursuing a degree or a certificate in a tech-based writing field will make your transition into a technical writer easier. Formal education can be especially helpful since you’ll be writing essays, papers, and studies for several years before becoming a technical writer. The fields you should consider include:

  • English literature

  • Business and/or journalism

  • Communications and/or marketing

  • IT and/or engineering

Studying these fields will help you cover many of the basics found in technical writing when working with actual clients. You will learn how to format documents, parse and present data, as well as how to find legitimate resources.


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Technical Mindset

One of the most important skills a good technical writer should poses concerns their mindset. Being a technical writer means thinking critically and objectively about the content you write. For better or worse, there is very little space for free form writing in technical writing. 

You will often have to write papers that rely entirely on analytics and data management, such as in the case of reports and white papers. While it may take some time to readjust your mindset as a technical writer, it will help you eliminate bias and subjectivity from your writing.

Solid Research Skills

Being able to do thorough research is a fundamental skill for technical writers. As we’ve mentioned previously, you won’t be able to improvise or write completely original content without solid research beforehand. No client will ever accept a report or a corporate document with baseless information akin to a blog post. 

Technical writers need to know how to find the right information online, parse through it, and attribute it to its rightful source. The same applies when working with internal databases as you will always need to cite and quote sources throughout your writing. Technical writing is more time-consuming than typical copywriting or content writing but it is that much more rewarding for people who pick it up.

Reliable Content Management Stack

A technical writer is only as good at their job as their selection of writing tools. Given the research-based nature of technical writing, people who specialize in it need to be selective about the platforms and software they use. Some of the most useful technical writing tools you should consider learning more about are:

  • Hemingway Editor

  • Google Workspace

  • Adobe Acrobat

  • Trello/Asana/Podio

  • Typeset

These tools will make you stand out from other writers when you send your resume in for job applications or set up your profiles on social media platforms. Moreover, using them to produce quality writing for your clients will lead to useful referrals, testimonials, and portfolio pieces for future jobs.

Ability to Format and Proofread Content Properly

Technical writing differs not only from the standpoint of “writing” but formatting as well. Corporate documentation, case studies, and research papers you’ll be in charge of will need more detailed formatting than typical content found online. You’ll have to properly cite sources, quote data, insert footnotes, and use official sources for everything you refer to. Moreover, here’s how technical writing should usually be formatted:

  • Text justified left

  • Single row blank between paragraphs

  • Single spacing between rows

  • Arial, Times New Roman, or similar “standardized font”, 12pt in size

  • Margins of 1” or larger to allow for comments and writing around text

While these are not set in stone, technical writers are typically asked to take the lead in how their documents will be formatted. Establish professional relations with each client from the get-go and decide on your technical writing standards. That way, you will have an easier and faster time properly formatting and designing your writing before presenting it for review. It’s also great practice to carefully proofread your writing before anyone can see it. You don’t want to be caught with simple grammar or proofreading mistakes in your technical writing.

On Becoming a Good Technical Writer

Being a technical writer means that you need to be critical, objective, and analytic in your writing. It is quite different than creating content for social media or optimizing content with SEO keywords. However, you can learn so much just by writing different papers and articles for your clients. 

The amount of research you do for each project will teach you more about said subjects and expand your expertise even further. Technical writers can earn great revenue from their work and live comfortably as freelancers or solo entrepreneurs. Do consider it if you’re looking for a more technical, less free form style of copywriting to pick up