About This Book

Lead Writer: Kieran Morgan | Managing Editor: Kieran Morgan

Audience Icon Who Should Read This
• Aspiring Technical Writers
• Beginner Technical Writers
• Career Advancers
• Managers of Technical Writers
• Cross-Domain Professionals
• Educators of Technical Writers
• Consultants
Table of Contents: Technical Writing Process
Next: Chapter 1: Introduction to Technical Writing

1. Introduction

This is a book about technical writing—and how to do it like an expert. Technical writing is the art of creating instructions so that anyone can perform a task, whether that’s as simple as using a hairdryer or as sophisticated as repairing a component in a satellite. Technical writing is a rapidly growing field that offers excellent salaries, great prospects for career progression and personal growth, and options for career flexibility.

We’ve written this book for technical writers—that is, the folks who write the instructions. It doesn’t matter if you want to become one or you’re already experienced in the job. It doesn’t matter if you’re weeks into your first technical writing job and riding the emotional rollercoaster of imposter syndrome, or if you have decades of experience. You’ll still find something useful in this book.

The book is structured around the steps of the Technical Writing Process: Plan, Design, Write, Edit, Review, Translate, Publish, and Manage. We’ve also included some great information about the profession in Part 1 About the Profession. We interviewed technical writers at all career stages to gather insights from their experiences—from how they entered the field to what they think the future holds for the profession. To stay current, we include cutting-edge content in Chapter 7: Artificial Intelligence (AI) for Technical Writers, which highlights new techniques such as artificial intelligence.

In every chapter of this book, you’ll find neat packages of information—from clear explanations of concepts that build your knowledge to practical steps and templates to apply your newfound knowledge in the real world. Each chapter is reviewed by experts and meticulously cross-referenced against leading industry and academic sources.

Caption: High-Level Overview of the Technical Writing Process

However, the true strength of this book lies in its creators. It was written, reviewed, and researched by technical writers, lecturers, and leading experts in their fields. We hope our passion for technical writing and the expertise of our collaborators shine through in these pages.

Good luck on your technical writing journey!

From the Writers

2. Who This Book Is For

Whether you’re an experienced writer or still deciding on the right career, this book is for you. Specifically, this book caters to:

  • Aspiring Technical Writers who are trying to land their first job and want an accessible guide that breaks down the basics of the profession—entry paths, qualifications required, what to expect on the job, different types and levels of seniority—and what tools to use to get your foot in the door, such as résumés, portfolios, and LinkedIn profiles.
  • Beginning Technical Writers who don’t have much experience and want to build their knowledge and skills to gain confidence in their work.
  • Career Advancers who want to level up their skills and seek a promotion into a more senior role by deepening their craft or expanding their understanding of advanced skills.
  • Managers who have been tasked with setting up teams and need an off-the-shelf framework for doing so.
  • Cross-Domain Professionals in other fields who have been tasked with doing something outside their area of expertise—technical writing—and need an easy-to-apply, ready-made framework, complete with templates.
  • Educators who teach at the university or college level and are interested in adapting our process to develop courses for technical writers.
  • Consultants who are seeking a systematic, process-oriented framework that offers downloadable and customizable templates and tools for client work.

If any of the above describes you, chances are you’ve chosen the right book. You’re not alone—the Technical Writing Process has been successfully used by thousands of technical writers worldwide since 2015.

What Does That Mean Icon What Does That Mean?
Technical Writer
A writer who develops (writes, edits, curates, etc.) technical documents. Also known as a technical communicator or technical author.

Technical Document
A document combining technical information with instructional guidance to help its audience accomplish a goal, such as carrying out a process or using a product. Examples include user guides, developer documentation, procedures, manuals, and quick-reference guides.

3. The Process Model: Structured Learning

The backbone of the Technical Writing Process is the process chapters. These chapters represent the macro steps that writers, such as yourself, undertake when crafting technical documentation. They’re also the building blocks of professional competence: topics that enable you to learn and master your craft. They build your understanding of the concepts with the skills to apply them in real life.

Each process chapter is based on the same framework: the Structured Content Process Model. They’re divided into four main elements:

  • Theory: concepts underpinning the craft.
  • Practice: practical steps to apply your theoretical knowledge.
  • Templates: ready-made tools for applying the theory in practice, ready to customize for your project.
  • Samples: examples and case studies of how theory has been applied in practice.

These elements are worked into each chapter. The example below shows how the Structured Content Process Model can be used to explain any concept—from writing an instruction manual to cooking a meal.

4. Templates: Your Pathway into Practice

To facilitate the process, we’ve created templates designed to help you execute the detailed activities in each chapter of the Technical Writing Process.

Note Icon Note
Some Templates Are for Subscribers Only
Some of the templates in this book are for subscribers only. You’ll need to subscribe to our online knowledge base at https://boffin.education/ to access them in editable format. Subscribers to the e-book and paperback versions of this book can use the discount code in Templates to obtain a free one-year subscription and access the full breadth of our technical writing content. If you don’t want to subscribe, head over to our website. There you’ll find many of the more straightforward templates available for free, and others are presented in a noneditable format as images.

5. Voice of Practitioner: Technical Writer Interviews

To write this book, we interviewed more than twenty technical writers at all stages of their careers, from interns with only a month’s experience to senior writers with over thirty-five years who reflected on long and successful careers. We talked with documentation managers responsible for leading teams on different continents and aspiring technical writers wishing to break into the industry. We asked questions about every aspect of their careers, from the tools they use to their advice for newcomers to the profession and what they think the future holds. Snippets from these interviews are peppered throughout this book, providing valuable insights into the realities of the technical writing world.

6. Quality Assurance: Research and Peer Review

At Boffin Education, we’re committed to the highest standards of research and review. Our content is meticulously researched and cited, as it draws on diverse practitioner and academic sources. We also follow stringent review standards. If you’ve read our content, you’ve probably noticed the following:

Lead Writer: Amanda Butler | Peer Reviewer/s: Felicity Brand, Kieran Morgan | Expert Reviewer/s: Saul Carliner | Managing Editor: Kieran Morgan

Every chapter must receive at least one review prior to publication. Most of our content is peer reviewed—that is, reviewed by a member of our writing team, all experienced practitioners. We also invite expert reviews from practitioners and academics who are leading experts in their field and, often, authors of journal articles and books that we’ve referenced.

This dedication to quality lends a trustworthiness to our content that you just won’t find anywhere else.

7. About the Writers

The writing team for this edition of the Technical Writing Process comprises top-notch technical writers, specialists, and documentation managers from around the world. We’ve infused our passion for technical communication into this book, together with the latest advancements in the field and our best insights to help you succeed in your career.

7.1. Alison Pickering

Alison Pickering

Alison has more than twenty years of experience as a technical communications specialist and translation manager in Germany and the United Kingdom. She has a passion for creating high-quality content and a particular interest in developing and streamlining technical communications processes. Alison is based in the United Kingdom and enjoys riding her horse and driving fast cars. Alison is the Lead Writer for Part 9: Translate.

7.2. Amanda Butler

Amanda Butler

Amanda has more than a decade of experience in technical writing. She is passionate about bringing new faces into the industry and specializes in managing globally distributed teams of technical writers. She can be found quoting Jane Austen and bad 1980s movies in Austin, Texas, where she lives with her husband and dog. Amanda is the Lead Writer for Part 1: About the Profession.

7.3. Caity Cronkhite

Caity Cronkhite

Caity is the founder and CEO of Good Words LLC, a technical writing and documentation consulting firm. Good Words delivers strategic, management, and implementation support for their clients’ technical writing needs. Their writing wizardry and strategic skills streamline communications for a range of clients, from Fortune 500 companies to five-person startups. Check them out at http://www.goodwordswriting.com. Caity is Lead Writer for Chapter 7: Artificial Intelligence (AI) for Technical Writers.

7.4. Felicity Brand

Felicity Brand

Felicity has fifteen years of experience as a technical communicator. With a love for writing and a particular knack for editing, she enjoys working in open source where she can help writers (and nonwriters) create excellent written content. Felicity is based in Melbourne, Australia, and is a Lead Writer for Chapter 22: Review Draft.

7.5. John New

John New

John has more than twenty-five years of experience as a technical writer. He especially enjoys creating templates and styles for organizations to help ensure high-quality structured documents. With a strong IT background, he enjoys tinkering with computers and solving twisty cubes. John lives in Sydney, Australia, and is a Lead Writer for Chapter 17: Design Templates, including the Technical Document Template and the Sample User Guide.

7.6. Kieran Morgan

Kieran Morgan

Kieran is the author of the Technical Writing Process (1st ed.). His experience spans documentation, leadership, operations, and project management. His company, Boffin Education, is dedicated to helping people like you become experts. Kieran lives in Sydney, Australia, with his partner and daughter. In addition to being Managing Editor for this book, Kieran is a Lead Writer for Part 3: Process, Part 4: Plan, Part 5: Design, Part 6: Write, Part 7: Edit, Part 8: Review, Part 10: Publish, and Part 11: Manage.

7.7. Steve Moss

Steve Moss

Steve has more than three decades of technical communication experience. His notable contributions include spearheading educational content and leading an education department at WorkflowMax. An expert in online learning and a certified Information Mapping® instructor, Steve has also made his mark as a former president of http://TechComm.nz . He’s based in Auckland, New Zealand, and is a Lead Writer for Part 6: Write.

7.8. Swapnil Ogale

Swapnil Ogale

Swapnil has more than sixteen years of experience as a technical writer. He consults with and works for a range of organizations to set up documentation teams, processes, workflows, and toolchains. This includes strategizing content needs, setting up information architecture, and facilitating user research for documentation sites. Swapnil enjoys speaking publicly about documentation and has presented at tech conferences and meetups across the globe. Based in Melbourne, Australia, Swapnil is a Lead Writer for Chapter 16: Design Stylesheet.

8. About Boffin Education

A “boffin” is British slang for an expert in their field. We like the sound of it, and it accurately captures the goal we share with our students: mastery of their chosen fields. We hope you like it too.

Boffin Education’s mission is to help you become an expert by mastering theoretical concepts and learning the practical steps of your craft. Our products range from books and downloadable resources to online courses. We support newcomers to the field and established professionals looking for career growth.

We aim to prepare you for in-demand careers that offer you control over how you work:

  • Career Flexibility: find working styles that suit you: remote, hybrid, or in-office.
  • Work-Life Balance: fit modes of work to your lifestyle, including full-time, part-time, or freelance.
  • Attractive Remuneration: receive pay that is significantly higher than average.
  • Transferable Skills: gain skills that are highly transportable across multiple industries.

All our content is written and reviewed by teams of “boffins” with deep experience in their fields. This ensures that it contains the best and most up-to-date information to assist you in becoming an expert.

9. How to Use This Book

You don’t have to follow every step in the process. Its modular design and bitesize chapter format allow you to adapt the steps to your own projects. Chapter 8: Tailor the Process offers case studies and examples for modifying the process to suit your project. Other chapters cater to specialized needs. For example, Part 9: Translate is designed for those who need to localize their documents for different regions. Some sections, such as Chapter 13: Estimate Scope, Time, and Cost and Chapter 14: Develop Schedule, dive into the project management aspects of technical writing and offer advanced tools for skilled practitioners.

9.1. Symbols Used in This Book

While reading this book, you’ll encounter reader aids, such as insights and tips, which are easily identifiable by their accompanying symbols. The following table explains the purpose of each.

Table: Symbols Used in This Book

Audience IconWho Should Read This
The intended audience that the authors had in mind when writing a chunk of content such as a chapter.
Insight IconInsight
Insights offer an extra dimension to the guidance provided in this book. They may suggest career-enhancing moves, sound notes of caution, or shed additional light on a concept.
What Does That Mean IconWhat Does That Mean?
Definitions for technical jargon used in the accompanying text. All definitions are compiled in the glossary.
Tip IconTip
Helpful advice for applying the concepts discussed in a particular section.
Note IconNote
Additional information about a concept or section that is not essential for understanding it but provides more context.
Voice of Practitioner IconVoice of Practitioner
Anecdotes from individuals we interviewed during the creation of this book.

10. What’s New

This edition isn’t just an upgrade of Technical Writing Process (1st ed.)—it’s a comprehensive overhaul. It refreshes much of the great content in the first edition and adds vastly expanded guidance from our new writing team. The structure has been revised to align with our Structured Content Process Model, which brings a better balance of theoretical knowledge and practical application to our content.

Table: What’s New in the Second Edition of the Technical Writing Process

PartWhat’s Changed
About This BookStreamlined introduction with a focus on the book’s approach, process model, templates, and quality assurance.
Part 1: About the ProfessionNew section on the technical writing profession, including career insights and paths, based on global interviews with writers at various career stages.
Part 2: MethodsUpdated information on generative AI in technical writing,  with explanations of concepts and practical applications.
Part 3: ProcessRealigned technical writing process with the Information-Development Life Cycle, including new phases and updated case studies.
Part 4: PlanRevised planning content, enhanced Documentation Plan template, increased focus on audience analysis, and advanced chapters on estimating and scheduling.
Part 5: DesignEnhanced “Structure” section with guidance on taxonomies, stylesheets, and template design, including CARP concepts.
Part 6: WriteExpanded writing principles chapter, updated guidance on the write-review-update process, and new information on expert interviews and workshops.
Part 7: EditMade editing a standalone phase, with a modified version of the Levels of Editing concept.
Part 8: ReviewReworked testing and validation section, distinct from the review phase, and integrated with writing and editing through the process model.
Part 9: TranslateAdded new guidance on translation and localization, including practical steps and theoretical concepts.
Part 10: PublishRevised document control section, updated to align with international standards. Moved approval to this section.
Part 11: ManageNew content on managing technical documentation projects, including status trackers, checklists, kanban boards, and schedules.
TemplatesUpdated templates, with integration of previously stand-alone tools into the Documentation Plan.
SamplesAdded new section with practical samples illustrating applied concepts.
GlossaryUpdated glossary with refreshed definitions and new terms.

11. Acknowledgements

The writers extend our heartfelt thanks to all those who have dedicated their time and effort to the successful completion of this project—particularly our expert reviewers, many of whom contributed guidance and support well beyond their chapter-by-chapter reviews. Your contributions and expertise have been invaluable. We’d also like to thank our partners and our families for their patience as we immersed ourselves in this project. We couldn’t have done it without your support.

11.1. Expert Reviewers

  • Castella Arthur: Chapter 20: Include Images.
  • Dina Bennett: Chapter 9: Collect Information, Chapter 15: Design Structure.
  • Professor Saul Carliner: Chapter 1: Introduction to Technical Writing, Chapter 2: Technical Writing Roles and Responsibilities, Chapter 3: Essential Skills for Technical Writers, Chapter 4: Breaking into Technical Writing, Chapter 5: Career Growth and Survival for Technical Writers, Chapter 6: Career Flexibility in Technical Writing.
  • Patrick Lambe: Chapter 15: Design Structure.
  • Derek Moeller: Chapter 8: Artificial Intelligence (AI) for Technical Writers.
  • Stephanie Riches-Harries: Chapter 24: Translation Theory, Chapter 25: Translation Practice.
  • Emeritus Professor John Sweller: Chapter 20: Include Images.
  • Deirdre Wilson: Chapter 16: Design Stylesheet, Chapter 17: Design Templates.
  • David Whitbread: Chapter 16 :Design Stylesheet.

11.2. Collaborators

  • Sanja Kajfeš, our fantastic graphic designer, who did the visual design for the book.
  • John New, who, in addition to being a Lead Writer, also contributed significantly to the book production through his mastery of templates and provided invaluable moral support during the journey.
  • Kristen Hall-Geisler, for her diligent copyediting, and patience as we experimented with new ways of managing a writing project.
  • Mischa Bendall, who provided excellent administrative assistance during the writing.
  • Ivana Devcic, who contributed valuable feedback during the early stages of writing.
  • Sue Geercke, and the team at Cochlear, for their permission to use an excerpt from the Cochlear™ Nucleus® 6 Sound Processor User Guide as a case study in Chapter 15: Design Structure.
  • Phil Cohen, Director of HCi Professional Services https://hci.com.au/, provider of much-needed encouragement and advice, particularly on technical writer recruitment and testing.

11.3. Interviewees

  • Alison, Amanda, Anh, Annette, Ayo, Carly, Colin, Dina, Felicity, Francis, Jerome, John, Kate, Layale, Lee Anne, Nellie, Phil, Rachael, Robert, Sarah, and Swapnil.
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