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The Tip of an Ice Berg – technical writer’s job

The Tip of an Ice Berg – technical writer’s job

10-12 December I participated in a Technical Writing workshop held in Global Towers Hotel, Wellawatta, Sri Lanka. It was quiet cheap, just 50 US Dollars. I have attended few creative writing workshops earlier, but this was the first time I attended a technical writing workshop. Because I’m involved in documentation in my workplace (a computer software company specialized in simulations for training purposes) participation was necessary.

Ice Berg

The workshop was organized by Information and Communication Technology Agency (ICTA). Mr. Shrawan Kumar from Tech Total Corporation, India, conducted the workshop. I met few Technical Writers, Business Analysts, SQA (Software Quality Assurance) leads and Software Engineers from peer companies. I wouldn’t discuss my learning outcomes of the workshop in this article, but my perception towards the technical writer’s job.

Shrawan Kumar has 10 years’ experience in technical writing, he has started working when it wasn’t a demanding career in the industry. In addition to technical writing, now he works in the area of instructional designing for e-learning. Most of the issues he stated were as same as the issues I faced in my workplace, I felt he was reading my mind. Starting from gaining domain knowledge, adhering to writing standards and using tools for generating documents in several formats, I had faced many difficulties. I was on my own, searching, reading and learning through trial and error. One of my close friends is an API writer in a software engineering company and her experiences are not deviated from mine. Shrawan has gone through a similar challenging phase and now he is in a position to teach others.

A good technical writer follows Information Mapping (designed in 1965 by Robert E Horn, a psychologist at Columbia University) and IEEE Std 1063-2001 (IEEE standards for software user documentation). He will use diagrams, and write sentences in Simple English using active voice. He will not challenge the reader to understand his write-ups. His job satisfaction is making people easily learn complex things.

When Shrawan said the outcome of a technical writer’s work is the tip of an ice berg, I had to agree. To write a technical document on a certain domain one needs to be a domain expert of that field. Firstly the writer has to acquire information from technical people (this means the writer has to bug a set of busy people to extract their knowledge). Then the writer has to simplify the technical details and write in a manner which the readers will be able to effortlessly comprehend. The result of his efforts is a nicely structured, formatted and interesting-to-read document, the tip of the ice berg.

The technical writers usually do not get the credit they deserve for their hard work. For instance, if you read a technical document and understand its content in one go, you feel you are a smart person. You might never consider the writer’s effort of presenting complex info in a graspable arrangement.

About The Author

Hasitha Adhikariarachchi

Hasitha is the winner of Multilingual Poetry Slam, NSW, Australia (2017). She fell in love with this profession when she was a little girl who loved writing her heart out. She represented Sri Lanka at the South Asian Film Arts and Literature Festival (SAFAL Fest) in Sydney. She started Queen of Sea in 2013 and now she shares its’ space for publishing write-ups with her friends who love writing as much as she does.

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