Technical Writer

Technical writers have to communicate complex information in simple language. They are the major link between the manufacturer and the end user through the medium of the manufacturer's documentation.  In other words, they write scientific and technical information for a variety of products including web pages, printed documents and computerised help files.

Technical writing is the communication of factual information of any kind using written words and appropriate graphic techniques. Technical writers are responsible for writing specialist articles and user guides for a range of products – usually these documents should be user-friendly and aimed at the consumer, for example, the instruction manual for a DVD player. Often the information is of a very technical nature so a thorough understanding of the subject matter is essential.

Typical examples of technical writing include:

  • operating instructions for a radio, cassette player or calculator
  • the instruction leaflet with medicine
  • motor car workshop manual / owner’s manual
  • do-it-yourself manuals
  • training manuals
  • sales brochures
  • parts lists
  • company reports

Technical authors are responsible for writing, editing and proof-reading text, collating and verifying information, creating and editing pictures and diagrams, liaising with other staff such as printers, photographers and translators and producing indexes and catalogues.

Legislation compels the aircraft and armaments industries to employ technical writers. As there is an increasing emphasis on the provision of adequate documentation, the need for professionally trained technical writers to prepare the documents should also increase.

Technical writers do a great deal of research for the publications that they write, and have to consult specialists in various fields before they can begin their work. Technical writers also work closely with the technical illustrator who prepares the illustrations for the publication.

Key skills are having an eye for detail, technical knowledge, sense of narrative and the ability to articulate meaning.

Personal Requirements

  • must have patience, commitment and dedication
  • must have good communication skills
  • be able to give clear and simple descriptions of complex procedures and techniques
  • have a practical knowledge of graphics, three-dimensional illustrations, typography, photography and printing processes

How to Enter

Schooling & School Subjects

There are no specific educational requirements, but employers prefer candidates with a Senior Certificate. Curwen Communications Corporation, that offers training in this career, does not have any specific educational requirements.

What to Study

Most technical writers started as tradespersons, technically qualified personnel or even journalists and eventually became interested in technical writing. However, it is an advantage to have other training before being employed as a technical writer.

Curwen Communications Corporation in Heidelberg is the only organisation offering public training for technical writers. They offer a four-week course, consisting of four modules spread over a year. After this, the student can write an examination set by the Institute of Technical Communicators of Southern Africa (ITCSA) and acquire the ITCSA diploma.


  • armaments industry
  • aircraft industry
  • mining industry
  • manufacturing industry
  • self-employment - trained technical writers can work on a contract basis for companies

Further Information

Curwen Communications Corporation
P O Box 423
Heidelberg, 1438
Tel: (016) 349-2031

Getting Started

  • try to obtain vacation or part-time work with a technical writer
  • make an appointment to speak to a technical writer about this type of career

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