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Why do I need a technical writer?
Most educated people write reasonably well, but
writing technical materials, such as software user
manuals and reports on scientific research, requires
a specialized set of skills. It takes time to master
the theory and learn the "best practices"
of the technical writing profession. Hiring a skilled
technical writer (me, for instance) offers you the
Technical writers communicate more clearly:
- Most scientists, engineers, programmers, and other
product developers are experts in their field,
but are only comfortable writing for an audience
of their peers. But a product's manual
must usually meet the needs of an entirely
different audience: the users of the product,
who know far less about the product
than its designers.
- Technical writers translate between the
developer's jargon and the simpler language
the product's users require. This is
equally true for unconventional products,
such as information itself (for example, technology
- Words aren't always the best medium to communicate
a concept. A judiciously chosen mixture
of words and graphics often communicates
writers can help you redesign a product's
user interface to reduce the need for
by enough to repay the cost of the writer.
- High-quality documentation reflects well on
your company. Readers often assume that if
the documentation is poor, the product won't
be much better.
Reduced support costs
Good manuals reduce calls to your technical-support
- Technical writers think of the
task from the user's perspective, not
the designer's perspective. Thus,
they explain better how users can
reach their goals. Customers who learn
how to complete their tasks by reading
the documentation won't have to call
your support staff.
- Nobody reads manuals, right? That's a myth.
At a minimum, most people
at least consult the index or table of contents
to see whether the manual will answer
their questions. Technical writers can improve
access to the information, thereby reducing
support calls that arise purely because readers
can't find the information they need.
- While documenting a product, technical writers
test the product to learn how it really
works. In doing so, they often discover bugs
or usability problems. Fixing those problems
before you release the product ensures that
your customers will never encounter the problems.
In addition, technical writers often develop
a more holistic view of a product than is
possible for its developers, who must focus
intensely on their own small parts of the
- Technical writers develop expertise in effective
user-interface design, something most product
developers never formally study. By proposing
a streamlined, more effective interface,
the technical writer frees developers to
work on the more time-consuming task of making
the underlying code work correctly.
Reduced documentation costs
Hiring a technical writer can significantly
reduce your documentation costs:
writers can write more concisely without
sacrificing quality, resulting
in shorter manuals and lower printing costs.
- Whether you publish your documentation in
print or online, shorter documents reduce
the time requirement for reviews, thereby
reducing review costs. Because it's
also easier to focus on a shorter document,
the quality of the reviews will improve.
- The primary job of a technical writer is to
write, and professional writers create
documentation faster than the product's
developers. Even the rare developer
who writes quickly and effectively
can easily cost you twice as much per
hour as a technical writerand
they won't be producing anything you
can sell while they're writing. Hiring
a technical writer not only
reduces writing costs, but also frees
your product developers to do the job
you hired them for: product
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