A technical copywriter must wear multiple hats. They have to be able to break down complex topics and instruct readers on how to use or understand a technical process or concept. Also, they frequently have to persuade a reader to use or purchase technical products and services.
This requires a particular skillset one cannot find in just any copywriter. Here are ten important qualities great technical copywriters possess.
The first key ability is foundational to nearly every type of technical piece a copywriter creates. No matter how intricate or deeply involved the subject is, the writer must be able to present the material in a way that makes it easy to read and comprehend for the audience. This often means they must know the material themselves backwards, forwards, and inside out.
If they’re writing for businesses and professionals, they do not want to muddle the material with basics the audience already knows. If writing for customers, they need to become a translator.
Asking the right questions.
Some technical copywriters are experts in the material they are writing about, but not it is not required, or even very typical. That’s why they consult experts. When gathering information on the material, the copywriter must transform into a skilled interviewer, posing the questions that get the exact answers they need for their work.
Consulting outside experts is an important part of conducting appropriate research, but it doesn’t end or begin there. Technical writers perform in-depth research before and during drafting. They must know how to access good-quality resources, cross-check information against other sources for verification, and more.
Knowledge of the user.
Any copywriter will constantly remind themselves who the audience is, and this is not any different for those who specialize in tech writing. But unlike other types of copy, a piece of technical writing can differ wildly depending on who it is for. For instance, a piece designed to get a layperson to purchase a type of software will read entirely differently than a piece on the exact same software written for developers.
Copy that can go anywhere.
Technical documents often include visual aids, such as schematics and infographics, to get the message across. Brochures and single page instructions usually feature visuals as well. Technical copywriters create copy for these purposes, too. Therefore, they know how to be incredibly concise, distilling already-simplified information down into the most critical points. One could say that at times, technical writers are the subgroup that must say the absolute most in the fewest amount of words.
In technical copywriting, you cannot pad documents with assumptions or extra material that doesn’t specifically serve the purpose of the piece. Good technical copy is chock-full of facts, benefits, and instructions. Anything else is just filler. Locating and verifying the best information can take a great deal of patience. Only technical copywriters who interview experts, sort through reference material, and rigorously and continuously perform revisions have what it takes to create quality material.
A relevant background.
While they’re not usually experts, a technical copywriter does often have some sort of background in their specialized writing space. It could be independent, educational, or work-related, but experience is very valuable. Coding manuals, for example, are written by people with hands-on experience. If a writer does not have the specific experience for their topic, they’re prepared to test or experiment with the information themselves.
Building a master document.
It’s not uncommon for multiple versions of the same technical document to be used. Instead of writing two different versions, a good technical copywriter is adept at single-source authoring. That’s where one “master” document can serve as the basis for various iterations of the content.
Consider a device with a range of models available, even though the end goal or basic function is the same. There’s no need to write seven different pieces on each model, if the copywriter keeps single sourcing in mind.
There’s a wealth of information out there on every topic. Technical writers must be able to judge what, among all of this info, best serves the project. This means they approach the material analytically, can process it, and clearly see what fits into the piece. This is another area where experience is incredibly useful.
Excellent writing skills.
Having special skills doesn’t mean a technical writer doesn’t need the most important of them all – simply being a good writer. They know the value of tone, grammar, format, and more. Their skills as a writer are exactly why the engineer or developer has hired them in the first place. Expertise in a topic does not automatically equal written skill.
Locating the best technical copywriter.
Copywriting agencies place special emphasis on providing the appropriate style of writer for their clients.
This means that firms do not need to wade through resumes or interview dozens of freelancers, hoping to land a confirmed, experienced technical writer. It’s unfortunately commonplace for freelancers in need of a new project to augment their resumes with technical writing proficiencies that have not been verified.