Dr. Katharine Brooks, Director FAC 18 / 2304 Whitis Ave. Stop G6200 78712-1508 • 512-471-7900
What is technical writing?
Technical writing may involve writing for print, web, presentations, or multimedia; editing and proofreading; or helping others (like engineers) improve their writing, presentation, or publication skills.
What kind of background experience is necessary?
If you have experience with science or technology, you may be able to break into technical writing; you might even be able to break in even if you don’t have experience but can show examples of how you’ve written about complicated information for a non-expert reader. Many tech writers come from humanities backgrounds and learned the technical information on the job. In fact, English degrees are the most common educational background for members of the Society for Technical Communication, according to a 2002 survey.
Tech writers may work full-time for a company, as contractors, or obtain freelance work. Full-time jobs are advertised in newspapers and other general venues. Contract work may be obtained through a temp agency. You’ll need a portfolio of tech writing samples to get these jobs. A resume for tech writing needs to be organized by type of publications you have produced. The job outlook for tech writers is better than other types of writers and median pay is higher, according to the Occupational Outlook Handbook.
Considerations for Freelance Technical Writing
As any freelancer, you need to be able to market yourself and provide an estimate of how long the job will take, plus how much you will charge per hour. Rates for tech writers range from $15-35 for beginners, up to $75 for highly experienced tech writers. See the Freelance Writing guide for more tips.
- Look through a tech writing manual. Science and Technical Writing: A Manual of Style is available as an ebook through PCL, or you can easily purchase used copies
- Get any experience you can writing about complicated information for a variety of audiences. This could include volunteering to write materials for any kind of organization that reaches a non-academic audience: college organizations, nonprofits, small businesses, entertainment magazines and other local journalism outlets, personal blog
- Assemble a portfolio of written materials
- Consider joining the Society for Technical Communication. They offer student and early-career professional discounts on their membership fees, which get you a big discount on their online certification modules
- Become familiar with graphics software, as it could help you make presentations or train others to present information clearly and accurately
- Visit the LACS library in FAC 18
UT and ACC Resources
UT's Professional Development Center offers relevant classes, especially under “Communication”
UT's Department of Rhetoric and Writing offers RHE 328: Principles of Technical Writing
Austin Community College (ACC) offers courses in Business and Technical Communication for credit or continuing education
Print and Web Resources
Zeleznik, Julie M. Technical Writing: What It Is and How to Do It. New York: LearningExpress, 1999. Print.
Several books on visual communication by Edward Tufte, including The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, Visual Explanations, or The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint.
Lemire, Timothy. I’m an English Major: Now What? Cincinnati, OH: Writers Digest Books, 2006. Print.
- Also available as a free ebook download from writersdigest.com
Bly, Robert. Careers for Writers & Others Who Have a Way with Words. 2nd ed. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill, 2003. Print.
Taylor, Allan, and James Robert Parish. Career Opportunities in Writing. New York, NY: Checkmark Books, 2006. Print.
- See especially 73-74 and 122-124
Society for Technical Communication