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TechWrite Australia on Technical writers

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Technical writers can make a real difference to a company's end product, but many are unaware such a profession exists.

In Australia,on the whole common industries employing technical writers are the Information Technology and Defence sectors.

In other areas, however, the idea of using a professional technical writer has little penetration.

According to senior writer, Brian O'Sullivan, over 95% of TechWrite Australia's clients have never used a professional writer before.

"A common question I hear is - what does a technical writer do?" he said.

"Many have never heard of a technical writer before, despite having been engineers for a long time."

Many electrical, electronics and mechanical engineers are asked to write user manuals because their employers either do not realise a company such as TechWrite Australia exists, or they feel only the people who designed the product have the ability to accurately describe it.

TechWrite Australia feels that using extremely busy and expensive engineers to write manuals is an inefficient use of talented engineering staff.

Using a professional technical writer, however, can free up scarce engineering resources, while also producing a better result.

For example, a common error many make is to try and include every conceivable scenario and fact in a manual, according to Brian.

"This is simply impractical in most cases and quite often has the opposite effect to what was intended" he said.

"A balance has to be carefully found so the majority of readers are not bogged down in detail intended for a very few advanced users."

"Deciding what should be left out is nearly as important as what needs to go in."

According to TechWrite Australia, a good strategy is to place detailed information into additional documents such as white papers and procedures. These can be delivered via a website. The end result is that service calls will actually drop because most users now have a clear understanding of how to use the product.

There are many ways to tackle a documentation project. It is important to keep the audience in mind when making key decisions.

If there are more than one audience, a strategy to communicate effectively with both must be decided upon before starting work.

Above all, the product’s image is dependent on the quality of the documentation.

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