8 Essential Online Resources for Technical Writers
Here are my top resources for those of you making a living out of technical writing. Some are also of use to anyone who writes in any style for a living. First though…
What Is a Technical Writer?
I’ve always written my own training content, workbooks, manuals, user guides, procedures and policies. I was a Technical Writer long before I realised it. And, my personality type is tailor-made for the role. Simply put, a Technical Writer is someone who writes technical documentation. Non-writers often make the mistake of reading IT into the technical bit of the job title. However, while many technical writers deal with information technology, many don’t. There are many fields that come under the heading of “technical”: Medicine; Engineering and Construction; Food; Health; Research; or Education for example.
Sometimes, Technical Writers are also referred to as Technical Authors or Technical Communicators.
What Do Technical Writers Do?
Technical Writing often involves a great deal of jargon or specialised language. It is the task joy of the Technical Communicator to become familiar, often very quickly with new concepts, technology, jargon and environments, in order to produce a guide, manual or handbook that will illuminate the topic for newbies, or provide a useful resource for the more experienced.
What Online Resources Are Available?
There are some online resources that I simply cannot do without. Some are human in form.
Tom Johnston is a Technical Writer from Utah. He writes a blog entitled, I’d Rather be Writing, about “The Latest Trends in Technical Communication” and is never too busy to answer a query, or recommend some useful online resources via Twitter. Each blog post is mighty useful. Add it to your RSS reader now!
An Encyclopedia Britannica company, Merriam Webster operates an online dictionary and thesaurus, a delight to anyone into who wishes they’d studied semantics or etymology at university. This website is a resource for all those who need to know the precise origin, old and modern meanings of words, and pronunciation guidelines.
It’s not too great a strain to say that this may just be my favourite concept in the writing domain: Plain English. It prompted the style of the strapline we use for our Coaching Service: No Fuss; No Jargon; No Crystals: Only Results.
If you’re looking for an old, reliable guide to how English should be written, then this is what you have been waiting for. Strunk and Whyte is a plain English reference guide from the early 1900s, highlighting and explaining those English rules that are so often contravened.
This is a highly useful blog, combining video, links and how-tos. The man himself, Ellis Pratt is on Twitter and is always helpful, even to the point of sourcing local technical writers for me.
“With state-of-the-art recommendations on editorial style and publishing practices in the digital age, The Chicago Manual of Style is the must-have reference for everyone who works with words.” Sign up for the immensely compact and useful Q&A Alerts. They’re also on Facebook.
If you just cannot bear to take English seriously, then I’d suggest Thomas Parrish’s The Grouchy Grammarian, as a humourous starting point. Once you begin to laugh while learning the rules, you’ll be pedantically hooked forever!
Image credit: nirak (main image). All other images are taken from the resources’ websites.