The technical writer at Afour Technical Communication is a professional writer engaged in producing software user documentation for software business applications including the development of associated knowledge and learning assets.
Why would anyone need to use a technical writer?
Most people can write English, and anyone who develops a technical system or process (a programmer or an engineer, for instance) is bound to know those systems better than an outsourced technical writer.
Making common sense of complex technical information
Well, firstly a technical writer is a lot like a translator. Taking technical information — whether on paper or inside the subject matter expert’s (SME’s) head — and translating it into terms that are meaningful to the intended audience. For example, a functional specification of a piece of software is of little help to the end user — the end user does not really care how or why it works, but just wants to know how to use it properly. Different audiences may require a different approach to the same information.
Knowing what information is important for the reader
Secondly, being very close to a subject is not always the best position from which to describe it to others. If you are an expert on something, there is a tendency to write about it on a very technical level. A good Technical writer will be able to extract essential knowledge required for using a product successfully. A Technical writer is not afraid to ask stupid or embarrassing questions that would never occur to an expert. Questions like “Why does it work this way, and what happens if I enter wrong information here?” “I don’t understand why I need to fill in these fields.” The answers to these can be of immense value to the content of a document, and sometimes to the usability of a product.
Writing clearly, consistently and quickly
Thirdly, a point I usually approach tactfully is that not everyone is very good at writing information down anyway. Good technical writing is not just a matter of sticking to the rules of grammar and good usage. It is also about finding the right tone for an audience, making sure information is presented consistently in a logical order, is easy to find, and nicely presented.
Testing usability - a free extra
Finally, as a bonus, a good author can also be a source of free usability testing for your product. Most of us will (if asked), point out any problems we notice in using or trying to describe the product.