Technical writers to be proficient in the 6 Professional Writing Job Functions (Analysis, Research, Design, Writing, Editing, and Publishing) to successfully complete a professional writing project. In the project writing process, writing (putting pen to paper or typing in a word processor) is only one of many functions required of technical writers.
In the previous post, we saw how the professional writing job functions could be used to outline the process of developing a project. This post looks more closely at the work flow of the project from the perspective of the members of the writing teams.
Writers will continually use their analytical skills. The first steps require a careful analysis of projects goals. If you don’t fully understand the goals of the project, it is unlikely that you will successfully complete it. Writers also must analyze their research to identify what information is relevant to the project goals. They must analyze the rhetorical context, identifying how to best design and write their documents to appeal to the audience and align with the publication media (social media, blog, or print).
Writers must be able to conduct research in areas in which they lack expertise. Technical writers are writing specialist, not content specialist, so must be able to quickly learn about a client’s business and the subject they contract you to write about. Writers have to be able to employ a range of research methods to obtain insight, data, quotes, information, etc. that will allow them to produce documents that meet the project goals.
Document design refers to the planning and organization of a document and the visual layout and style choices. Writers should design information to align with the project goals and the rhetorical context before putting significant energy into writing. Layout, visual elements and style can be manipulated after a draft of the document is completed.
For many technical writers, writing is the easiest part of their job. If they have done the preliminary work of understanding project goals, research, rhetorical analysis, and document design, the writing usually happens rather effortlessly. When the preliminary work is not completed, writing reveals the gaps in planning The writer either learns through numerous rewrites what wasn’t revealed in their shoddy preliminary work or the resulting product is rejected for failing to meet project goals and standards.
Technical writers must be able to proofread their own work, but editing work can be distributed when their is no designated editor in an organization. In our workflow, Project Administrators and Coordinators are responsible for approving documents before they get published. The approval process takes into account a document’s adherence to project goals, style guides, and standards. When a document isn’t fit for publication, it will be returned to the writer to edit, redesign, or rewrite.
Technical writers must understand how to publish documents in a variety of media, including print, social media, and websites. It is important for them to know the technologies that allow for publishing online and creating printable media. All of our technical writers must be able to post to a blog and social media page, and create digital printable documents in pdf. Coordinators must be proficient in either print-media, blogging, or social media tools.
Other Job Functions
Throughout the process you will have to manage a number of tasks. Problems will occur and you have to be able to overcome them. The process is depicted as a sequence, but as you will find the order of the sequence can quickly change. You might find that your research is not sufficient and have to conduct more. The style guide might get updated to reflect a client request and you will have to edit your document to fit the new guide. Proficiency in the primary job functions will allow you to overcome any problems or changes more efficiently. As you work to develop skills in these functions, make sure to use the project writing process as a guide. It will help you successfully produce the multiple documents required of this project.