Technical Writing for Dummies: A Day in the Life of a Tech Writer

The alarm rings, is it 6 a.m. already? Time to set a new day in motion, wake up numerous beings of all sizes and ages from varying degrees of sleep and get everyone going. Finally, you are alone at last! This is your once-a-week “work from home” day, so you give the traffic a miss. You sit at your system and start yet another typical day as a technical writer.

You check your mailbox and find that the new feature that was being discussed in this week’s scrum meeting is ready. You need to add information about this feature to the user manual. You also need to prep the release notes for the upcoming release. And you need to create a short training video that explains this feature.

You make an appointment to speak with the subject matter expert (SME) to get more information about the latest addition to the software product you are documenting. Not an easy task!  Most of them are more difficult to catch than the underworld dons and when caught, have the verbal dexterity of a cat speaking Latin. But Eureka! You’ve managed it. A short call and a few emails later, you have all the requisite details in hand. Decoding what you’ve got from the SME is important because otherwise it often tends to read like….you got it – a Latin cat!

You can you proceed to write your piece and get some screenshots. You log in to try your hands with the new feature. That is, after all, the best way to figure out how to document it properly. There seems to be a problem with the text formatting for the label on the screen. Must remember to mention that in your notes to the QA team and perhaps even log a bug. That issue aside, you manage a few nice screenshots for the piece and everything is working perfectly.

With the write up ready, you send it out for a peer review. While waiting for it to come back, you begin working on release notes and the script for the video. Release notes are a simple listing of the features that are being added in this version of the release along with other information such as bugs fixed since the previous release, known issues, support limitations, etc.

The script for a video, on the other hand, needs a more creative touch. You need to find a way to weave in a story around the new feature while also explaining all the steps in the correct sequence. A video must tell a story in order for it to be effective.

Just as you give your release notes a nice finishing touch, you get your write-up back after review. Seems good enough, just a few comments. With the comments resolved, you are ready to include the page into the help authoring tool and publish your guide. You make necessary additions to the table of contents (ToC), the index, and the glossary, and regenerate the user guide in the necessary format(s).

The latest version of the user guide is now ready to go into the daily build; you take a couple of minutes to check for broken links before committing the latest version into your source vault and unlocking the document. The release note is also all set to be updated on the website. The script is ready for review – hopefully tomorrow you should get started with the video. But that’s for another day….

 

All in all, a pretty productive day you think as you sit down with a steaming cup of coffee and go on to spend some quality time with the horde that’s back and kicking up a storm in the front room!  

Category: Career, Documentation, Technical Writing, Technical Writing for Dummies

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