Improving work processes is what everyone is talking about. We ourselves have written a bunch of blog posts on this subject. Still, nothing is perfect, and many technical writers keep struggling with some difficulties and challenges regularly.
Technical writing can take various forms: user manuals, tutorials, how-to articles, context help… But the majority of tech writers actually share common job-related challenges.
We came up with a list of pitfalls tech writers have to face in their work:
- Dealing with subject-matter experts. More often than not subject-matter experts lack any background or experience in help authoring. So, the information they provide has to be re-worked in many ways. Subject-matter experts often just give you data without considering how knowledgeable (or not) users are. That’s why, for a help topic to make sense to readers, technical writers go above and beyond to restructure, simplify and provide explanations and references.
- Hello boredom, my old friend. We guess, when you are a tech writer on staff, you kind of get used to the product you are writing about, it grows on you with time. But many freelance technical writers or tech writing agencies take up documentation projects from different businesses. So, the Stockholm syndrome might not have enough time to develop in this case 🙂 Such technical writers often have to dive into various fields, some of which might bore you to death. Alas, to be a good content creator, you have no other option but to dig deep. It doesn’t matter whether you like the subject, or it makes you fall asleep 10 minutes into the research.
- Working with what you’ve got. We are talking about software. It is no secret that the bigger a company is the more sluggish the process of approving and buying software gets. Oftentimes, you have to work with what you’ve got at least for the time being. For technical writers, the most essential tools are: a help authoring tool, a screenshot maker, a screen recorder, a grammar checker, and some others. Sometimes, they don’t meet the requirements and looking for functionality workarounds becomes part of your job…
- Meeting instead of writing. Seriously though, how do you skip all these meetings? They all seem so important…Here, developers will be talking about new functionality, and there we have testers pushing some changes that will most likely affect our documentation plan. Meetings inside the documentation team happen on a regular basis and you can’t just forget about the all-company meetings that are important as well. But, when do you actually write?
- The more projects the merrier. While we don’t believe that anything like technical writers confusing project terms or mixing up help topics will happen, juggling several projects is still not that easy. You need to become a time-management ninja to remember every deadline and fit all projects and their specifics into one realistic work plan.
Some of the enlisted things can get extremely annoying, especially, when there’s not much to do about it. Oh, well. That’s part of technical writing, and these challenges can also motivate you to work on yourself: boost your communicative skills to deal with subject-matter experts more efficiently, get on time-management courses, or learn how to become more persistent and confident to get that piece of software you want. And, these challenges will seem less scary with each passing day.
Good luck with your technical writing!
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Anastasia in Technical Writing on 11/30/2018