My advice to junior technical writers

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Much of my technical writing career has been spent working in the trenches directly with technical teams. Unfortunately, this means I don’t know any junior technical writers anymore.

I’ve seen a lot in my time as a technical writer, and if I did advise new or junior technical writers, it would be the following:

  • Accept that most everything your college professors told you about technical communications is wrong or plain not feasible in today’s budget-strapped work world.
  • The Idiot as a User Advocate is an industry myth.
  • Save your writing samples religiously.
  • Diversify and don’t stick to writing just one kind of document.
  • Try to work in a real department at least once in your early career. You’ll have plenty of time to work as a solo technical writer in and out of dysfunctional environments until you burn out, get out of the profession, or retire.
  • You can’t make a career out of templates and style guides so take extra care when setting them up for a project.
  • Write and edit for your audience NOT for yourself. If you don’t understand something it doesn’t necessarily mean your audience is in the same boat. Ask questions! Do your research!
  • Technical accuracy is king! You are going to have to learn something about what you are tasked to document.

What advice do you have for new technical writers?

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Will Kelly

My name is Will Kelly. I’m a technical writer and content creator based in Northern Virginia. These days I write a lot about cloud computing and DevOps. My articles have been published by TechTarget, Samsung Business Insights, TechBeacon, CNET TechRepublic, and others. By day, I work in the corporate growth group of a large systems integrator. At night, I do circuit training, then go home and write more. Follow me on Twitter: @willkelly.

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