A document writer, also referred to as a technical writer, works for corporations to provide documentation for their products and services. Their writing is usually factual in nature and often highly technical. Software companies, technology corporations and electronics manufacturers are three of the main types of employers that rely heavily on document writers to produce technical documents for their clients.
A document writer produces factual information about products in a variety of formats, from instruction manuals to help desk material, frequently asked questions (FAQs), how-to's, fact sheets, technical specifications, and reference manuals. He needs to be able to describe complex processes such as installation, setup and functions in clear English for consumers of the software or products, who will often be complete beginners and may have no technical expertise. He must produce his documents on time without errors. He may be expected to contribute to the layout and design of the document, particularly with reference to diagrams that support the step-by-step instructions he has written. He may work solo and be responsible for all aspects of the document, or be part of a team and need to perform his duties reliably to get the project completed on time.
Education and Qualifications
A technical writer should have a bachelor's degree in English, communications or journalism. Some technical writers may also be expected to have a technical background or experience in working with technology companies. They may also be required to have experience in certain computer languages and be able to use a variety of word-processing and layout programs for both print and online documents.
Skills and Abilities
Document writers must possess excellent communication skills, particularly in writing. They must also be able to work with a wide variety of colleagues from developers to engineers to be sure they have a good understanding of the product they are writing about to convey all the important information about it to the end user. They must be able to work under pressure and meet all deadlines.
Document writers must be able to handle complex transactional language to describe processes and functions of complex computer programs or electronic equipment. They should also have a good command of the technical terms and vocabulary commonly used in the field in which they are working. They should be able to adhere to the style specified by the corporation they are working for, such as the Chicago Manual of Style.
Document writers should be able to work well with their senior editor and a copywriter and fact checker, who will all review the document writer's work before it is published and released. Document writers should have an excellent command of grammar and punctuation and show great attention to detail.
Salary and Benefits
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics for 2009, the average salary for a document writer is approximately $65,610 a year, with an average hourly wage of $31.55. Many document writers work freelance, but those who are in a large corporations can enjoy paid vacations and health and other benefits.
Because of the world's increasing reliance upon existing and emerging technologies, and English as a global language of business and commerce, particularly in computer technology, document writer jobs are expected to increase at an above-average rate over the next decade, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
2016 Salary Information for Technical Writers
Technical writers earned a median annual salary of $69,850 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, technical writers earned a 25th percentile salary of $53,990, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $89,730, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 52,400 people were employed in the U.S. as technical writers.