But what does a technical writer actually do?

Whenever I meet someone new and the inevitable "So, what do you do for a living?" question arises, I say that I'm a technical writer and they reply something along the lines of:

"Oh! That sounds interesting. [pause] But what does a technical writer actually do?"

At this stage, I confess that I tend to boil it all down into one little nugget (it's really the best thing for both of us) and I say:

"I write user help for software, mainly."

More often than not there's another, longer pause and then they'll respond with something like:

"What's that?" 

And I'll say:

"You know when you're using something like Microsoft Word and there's a button in the top right-hand corner that you click to get help? I write that kind of thing."

I know. Not exactly sparkling party conversation - and upon reflection I may have left an awful lot of people with the false impression that I have written all of the help for Microsoft Word completely on my own - alas I've had no input at all (though Microsoft, if you're reading, I'm happy to help anytime!).

But the point is that I really haven't been selling myself very well on these occasions. Yes, I do write online help for software - and user manuals, and training materials - but I do an awful lot more as well. To this end, I have gone and made an infographic (because I can):

Infographic

This article was updated on September 4, 2021

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