They’re the hydrochloric acid of the tech world!

26 || October || 2022

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#Issue 009

How to become a
technical writer

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Greetings, ET readers 🖖🏾

And congratulations to the winners from last week’s draw! 

All ten of you have won a copy of Adora Nwodo’s Cloud Engineering for Beginners

You’ll be hearing from us soon so check your inboxes frequently. Now, onto today’s highlight. 


by Timi Odueso.

Tech trivia questions

Here is this week’s trivia. Answers are at the bottom of this newsletter. 

  1. What is the first form of writing known to man?
  2. What does FAQ stand for?

Who is a technical writer✍🏾?

We all write everyday, and for free too. From Twitter threads no one reads 💀 to love letters we almost always regret, writing is a part of our everyday life.

This week, we’re going to focus on a form of writing that can actually earn you money and not regret: technical writing.

Technical writing is a form of writing that breaks down technical concepts in easy-to-understand terms. Technical writers take all the big grammar that techies like to use and simplify it so anyone can understand.

Technical writing is all around us. From the tiny how-to pamphlets that come with every new device you buy, to the FAQs of websites and apps, to even this newsletter, it’s all technical writing! Adds technical writer to LinkedIn bio.

As our guest today says, technical writers are charged with creating and maintaining the documentation of tech products and services. 

How technical writing works

There are three key skills required for technical writing: research, clarity, and critical thinking.

🔎 Research: Technical writers are like hydrochloric acid; they break things down. And to break things down, they have to do a bit of digging and have the best research skills. In other words, you have to be good at finding stuff.

Don’t worry though. Anyone who can find a movie to watch before their meal gets cold can be a good researcher.

🔮 Clarity: In technical writing, you can’t have mixed signals or purple prose. Every single line must be as clear as Lagos roads on Saturday mornings. 

Technical writers help people to understand stuff, and before they can do this, they need to have clarity about the concepts they’re writing about first. This is where their research skills kick in. 

With clarity on the subjects they’re writing about, technical writers can simplify terms and let you know that “the cloud” just means a network of computers accessible through the internet.

💬 Critical thinking: Technical writers consume a lot of information in order to break stuff down. Critical thinking not only helps them understand what they’re reading, it also helps them figure out which information is important.

The tools of a technical writer

Pen…and paper.

No, we’re just joking. The great thing about technical writing is that it doesn’t need triple-monitor setups or MacBooks.

Technical writers are able to excel with a few hardware and software tools.

🖥️ Hardware tools can range from phones to tablets and simple laptops.

💿 Software tools include G-Suite—Google Docs, Sheets, Slides, or any word processing tools like Microsoft Word.

Hear it from a technical writer

This technical writer has a four-year career documenting solutions and problems.

Technical
Cynthia Peter@iamCynthiaPeter

Cynthia Peter is a Nigeria-based technical writer and developer advocate currently working with Atsign. 

Community Facilitator, Andela June 2018–August 2018
IT Intern, Relevant Systems December 2019-September 2020
Mobile Application Developer, Bitstrapped September 2020-November 2020
Technical Writer, Educative Inc. November 2019-December 2021
Technical Writer, Sterling Bank April 2021-September 2022
Technical Writer, Atsign October 2021-Februrary 2022
Developer Advocate, Atsign January 2022–present

Q. In your own words, what does a technical writer do?

A technical writer creates documentation for product or engineering teams. It’s writing documents that tell whoever wants to use that tool or product how to get the best out of it. 

The product can be an API, an SDK, or even a package.

Q. What are the hardest and easiest parts of becoming a technical writer?

The easiest part of becoming a technical writer is finding resources; there are many resources online. 

It’s also easy to create a portfolio when you begin to get the hang of it. Technical writing is all about writing and explaining stuff so once you know enough, you can create a blog and start publishing explainers. 

The hardest part is getting the first formal opportunity. You’ll have to knock on a lot of doors and maybe even learn a lot of tools. It will be hard to break into the scene and learn tools. As a technical writer, you’ll have to learn about the stack your team uses and it means each time you change roles, you have to learn a new stack and use a new set of tools. This can be daunting. 

Q. When and why did you choose to become a technical writer?

I knew I wanted to become a technical writer when I figured out writing was something I enjoyed doing. I really enjoy breaking things down and explaining things to people. 

It wasn’t something I planned. I have a lot of non-technical friends and they come up to me for questions; when I realised I could explain this clearly, then I started to lean into it. 

Q. How did you learn technical writing? And what struggles did you face while doing it?

I didn’t learn technical writing; it’s something I just started. I started writing on social media about the challenges I faced as a developer and how I overcame them. Then Educative.io reached out to me and asked me to write for their blog. 

It was just me consuming resources, reading blogs, and courses on technical writing, documentation and communication. Even if I didn’t have hands-on practice while I was learning, consuming these resources filled my head with technical writing and made it easier for me to fit into the role. 

The struggle I faced was with my writing. My writing was crazy and it needed help. It’s still something I’m working on, learning to write for different audiences and regions. 

Q. What are the biggest misconceptions about technical writing?

Everyone thinks all technical writers should do is write; it’s not. I worked at a place where I was expected to have a list of everything I did on a day-to-day basis, but there were some days when all I did was research the product, and the team felt like this was a waste of resources. 

Writing is just 20% of technical writing. The real work is research and understanding what you’re actually writing about. You could have a whole year to work on a document and you’ll spend at least half of that just auditing the product you’re writing about. 

You can write for a living too

Check out some of these resources that can ramp up your writing game.

Technical Writing for Developers by Google
  • Price: Free
  • Duration: Varies
  • Tools Needed: Phone + internet access
  • Level: Beginner
Get course
Technical Writing Certification Course by AptLearn
  • Price: Free
  • Duration: 18 hours
  • Tools Needed: Phone + internet access
  • Level: Beginner
Get Course
Technical Writing by Saylor Academy
  • Price: Free
  • Duration: 86 hours
  • Tools Needed: Phone + internet access
  • Level: Beginner
Get Course

Ask a techie

Q. As an Economics student and somebody interested in finances, how can I break into fintech? How can I combine my passion for business and the economy with technology?

Fintech is all about finding financial and economic gaps in society and plugging them with technology. Fintech products help people in rural places in Kenya send money to other parts of East Africa through mobile money; they help Africans in the diaspora send money back home. 

With a background in economics, you’re perfectly positioned to see what financial problems exist in the society, and your way to breakthrough into fintech would be brainstorming and creating solutions to these problems. 

Depending on what career you eventually go into, your penchant for business and economics will give you unique insights into which problems fintechs can solve, and how.


That’s all we can take this week. Have any questions about tech in Africa? Ask away and we’ll find answers for you.👇🏾

Ask a question

Tech trivia answers

  1. If you said hieroglyphics, you’re wrong. It’s Sumerian script which was invented in Mesopotamia around 3,400BC.

  2. FAQ stands for “frequently asked questions” and it’s a list of common questions users of a product or service ask.

Opportunities

  • Increase your online sales with your own website built in one hour! Join this free live masterclass https://bit.ly/24HRNOCODEWEBSITETC and learn how to build your websiteget customers  and take your business global without the tech headache, paying costly developers, or spending ad dollars.

  • Apply to the UN IOM iDiaspora Photo Contest 2022. Amateur and professional photographs can submit photos portraying three central themes and win up to $1,500 in prizes. Apply by November 4.

  • The Fondation Maison des sciences de l’homme and the Institut Français de Recherche en Afrique of Nairobi are offering a three-month-long fellowship in France for postdoc researchers from Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda, and Eastern Congo (Kivu) who have presented their thesis from 2017. Laureates will receive a monthly stipend of €1,600 at the start of each month. Apply by December 9.

Jobs

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Timi Odueso Staff Writer

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