This blog post discusses the importance of closed captioning and subtitling in technical videos. However, we should first discuss the significance of videos. It is important to mention that the human brain processes at a higher speed information coming from a video rather than from the usual standard ways. Also, it helps people understand things better and remember more.

In recent years, there has been an increase in the amount of videos that are created and consumed. After Google, YouTube is the second-largest search engine and has seen a growing presence of companies. Many YouTube visitors are looking for answers to questions, solutions to daily life problems, or to learn something new. This is a good opportunity for companies to introduce their products to potential customers. For example, they could tell them what their products and services are about and how to use them.

Videos account for a significant share of content used by B2B marketers, including product overviews and reviews. In fact, investment in video production will be higher and higher in the future. You can learn more about the reasons for creating video content in the CAWEB) blog.

Nowadays, people use videos with subjects in technical communication, such as instructional how-to videos. Since not every user wants to read an entire user manual to find the solution to a problem, creating short videos that supplement written technical documentation can help users find information more quickly and understand things better. According to Forbes, two of the most effective types of videos are tutorials and demonstration videos.

The difference between closed captions and subtitles

People uses subtitles when they do not understand the language of the original soundtrack. Therefore, the function is to translate the content of the video.

Captions are intended for deaf and hard-of-hearing (DHH) people and tend to be inter-lingual, i.e., in the language spoken in the video. Captions include additional information such as speaker IDs, background sounds, music, exclamations, voice tone, and manner. They can be open or closed. Closed captions can be turned on or off, while open captions are burned into the video and cannot be turned off.

The importance of closed captioning and subtitling

Accessibility

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 466 million people suffer from disabling hearing loss. The main benefit of closed captioning is to be accessible because it gives DHH people visual access to audio content. In fact, the presence of captions is one of the success criteria of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) for multimedia. Other ways to make videos accessible include audio description and sign language interpretation.

Usability

According to the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), usability “is about designing products to be effective, efficient, and satisfying.”

Many people watch videos without sound. Closed captioning and subtitling can make videos more effective and efficient because they facilitate access and use. Even in situations in which it is not possible or not desirable to turn on the sound. For example, a noisy environment or public spaces. People feel more satisfied and have a better user experience.

Video localization

Adding subtitles to videos can be part of a company’s video localization strategy, in order to reach and engage a larger audience. That is why they make videos available to speakers of other languages. However, for the subtitles to be effective, they must be created following the golden rules of professional captioning and subtitling. As it is indicated in this article (in German), which illustrate how to localize videos using a correct methodology.

Video SEO

Closed captioning and subtitling are also useful for search engine optimization (SEO) purposes, since they allow video indexing and ranking. Search engines like Google cannot read video content, so for web crawlers to index a video, they need to know what it is about. Captions and subtitles can help make the content readable. This allows the use of more keywords (apart from those included in video descriptions, titles and tags) and increases traffic and engagement since captions tend to increase the watch-to-completion rate, which, in turn, will improve the video’s ranking. However, for this to happen, captions and subtitles have to be present as a separate file such as an SubRip Subtitle (SRT) file. Therefore, open captions are not suitable for the reason mentioned above.

Read more about the importance of video SEO (in French) in the CAWEB blog.

Conclusion

There are multiple benefits to closed captioning and subtitling, and given the importance of videos, including in the technical communication field, it is fair to say that adding closed captions to a video is a necessity to provide better access and user experience.

If you want to find out more information and learn more about technical communication, localization, SEO, usability, user experience, and other related topics, check out the TCLoc master’s program and apply online.

Technical Writing serves a vital purpose. How companies communicate product-related information impacts users’ ability to safely and effectively use a product, as well as how those users perceive the company behind the product.

As a result, technical writers often need to be certified. Technical writing certifications empower writers with the tools to communicate critical information to key audiences.

But certificates vary wildly in cost, required coursework, and the qualification obtained in the end. This begs a few questions. What’s the best technical writing certification? And how do you choose? Keep reading to find out!

The 6 Best Technical Writing Certifications (Degrees, Courses, and Online Programs)


1. The University of Strasbourg

Master’s in Technical Communication and Localization (TCLoc) / TEKOM Certification

The University of Strasbourg in Strasbourg, France offers professional certification in technical communication, and much more. The dual-track program offers students both a master’s degree in technical communication and localization, as well as professional certification in technical writing through TEKOM, the European Association of Technical Communicators. 

The TCLoc program offers multiple pathways for students to obtain their degree and certification, taking between one and two years. TCLoc’s diverse curriculum includes multiple web languages and technologies, immersion in the burgeoning field of localization, an introduction to Computer-Aided Translation tools, content marketing and strategy, project management, professional writing, visual communication and design, and much more. 

It’s ideal for career changers and established professionals in the field of technical communication and localization, wherever they’re located in the world.

Cost: $6660 for first-time applicants

Find out more about the University of Strasbourg’s TCLoc program!

2. UC San Diego Extension

Professional Certificate in Technical Communication

UC San Diego’s Extension Program features a Professional Certificate in Technical Communication. The program consists of 18-24 months of coursework and includes in-person and online options. Featuring core courses, a variety of electives, and a capstone course, the certificate affords learners a range of knowledge and skills, from technical editing and communication to information design and critical thinking for technical communicators.

The program also grants access to more technical tools such as Adobe Photoshop, text editors, HTML editors, Desktop Publishers, and a ten-week grammar lab. Participants must earn a pass (C-) or better in each course. 

Cost: $5,250

3. University of Wisconsin Eau Claire

Basic Certification in Technical Writing

The University of Wisconsin Eau Claire’s Basic Certification in Technical Writing is in its 15th year. The certificate comprises 3 courses – Introduction, Intermediate, and Advanced – and 90 hours of coursework. 

Students must complete the program within the timeframe noted upon signing up, though for a fee extensions are possible. 

The certificate focuses on helping individuals:

  • Enhance technical language and communication skills
  • Prepare for teaching professional communication 
  • Prepare and execute training in their companies
  • Advance in a variety of technical communication-related positions

Cost: $975

4. Society for Technical Communicators

Certified Professional Technical Communicator (CPTC)

The Society for Technical Communication (STC) is the world’s oldest association dedicated solely to technical communication. Their Certified Professional Technical Communicator provides a three-tiered certification program for technical writers of all skill levels. Applicants can choose from:

  1. Foundation
  2. Practitioner
  3. Expert 

Each certification level requires participants to pass a test. Foundation certificants gain knowledge of the following subject areas:

  • Project Planning
  • Project Analysis
  • Content Development
  • Organizational Design
  • Written Communication
  • Visual Communication
  • Reviewing and Editing
  • Content Management
  • Production Delivery

Cost: Professional and Academic memberships from $225

5. Oregon State University

Online Technical Writing Certificate

Oregon State offers a multi-course online technical writing certificate. A series of six courses, the program can help technical writers already in the industry to advance their writing abilities, as well as give aspiring tech writers the knowledge and skills to succeed. Students can take any course individually or all for the full certificate. 

In addition to a free intro to technical writing, the certificate includes these courses: 

  • Manuals: Instructions and Overviews
  • Technical Editing and Report Writing
  • Single-Sourcing and Methodology
  • Usability and UX Design
  • Technical Writing and Portfolio Creation

Cost: $2,125 or $425 per course

6. UDEMY

Udemy is an online course provider and learning marketplace. It offers tons of courses at prices that are sure to please your wallet. Most cost between $19.99 and $199, making Udemy the most budget-friendly option on this list. Courses are taught by real instructors or professionals in the field, and you’ll get a certificate of completion when you finish. 

A sample of Udemy courses includes:  

  • Professional Technical Writing: Advancing Your Writing Skills
  • The New Trainer’s Guide to Creating End-User Documentation
  • A Quick Start to Technical Writing with DITA

Cost: $19.99 +

How to Choose the Right Technical Writing Certification for You

Choosing the right technical writing certification involves careful analysis of many different factors.

Career Objectives

There are multiple pathways in the field of technical writing. You’ll need to determine whether you’re looking to write for science, tech, the medical industry, or another specialization. Furthermore, if you’re looking to change careers, you may need a degree or higher-order certification. If you’re already established in your industry, there are tons of technical writing certifications. Or you may just need a course here and there to freshen up your credentials.

Online learning

Most technical writing certifications fully take place online. You’ll need a reliable device and stable access to the internet and learning platform.

Certificate vs. Certification

Be careful. Certificates and certifications may not carry the same weight. A certificate can often be awarded by simply attending a class. Certifications are often earned through rigorous assessment and evaluation. Carefully analyze what you need to meet your goals.

Budget 

Technical writing courses vary greatly in cost. You can pick up courses from online platforms for under $100, while certifications from academic institutions can cost thousands. Consider your personal and career objectives so you can gain an idea of what you need to spend to reach your goals.

It’s also worth inquiring whether your employer may help foot the bill for the course fees. Many companies have a budget for professional development.

The Last Word

Carefully considering these factors, as well as thoroughly exploring each certification program above, should enable you to choose the program that best suits you. In this way, you can begin to not only hone your skills as a technical writer, but advance in your career, as well.

What insights can students gain from a volunteer experience at Tekom as TCLoc student?


I, along with a classmate, Dorothée Manteau, recently attended tekom Nordic for a conference on
technical communication and software localization. We were two volunteer students taking up a
Master’s in Technical Communication and Localization (TCLoc) at the University of Strasbourg.
The event was held at Scandic Hotel Sydhavn in Copenhagen, Denmark, from September 21-22,
2022, and welcomed over 150 participants from over 20 countries. It was also the occasion to
celebrate tekom Denmark’s 10th anniversary. This volunteer experience at Tekom consisted of having each day informative talks and engaging workshops on technical communication topics such as documentation tools, semantic web, AI, and organizational processes.


A week before, Ivona Weimer, event organizer at tekom, called us for a volunteer orientation, giving
us details about the event, and the various tasks and responsibilities expected of us, volunteers. It
was a great opportunity for us to meet members from the European technical communication scene,
and learn about events organization through various volunteering assignments.
A day before the event, my co-volunteer and I met up with the speakers to participate in an
organized walking tour of Copenhagen and have dinner at Restaurant Puk, one of Copenhagen’s
oldest restaurants. As volunteers, it was important to ensure the speakers felt welcome and warmed
up to a new place before their presentations.


Day 1: Conference at tekom


Maiken Blok, president of tekom Denmark, opened the conference with a warm welcome and
shared with us, tekom Denmark’s 10-year history. Ray Gallon, co-founder of The Transformation
Society and also a professor at TCLoc , then inspired us with his speech on the 21st-century
challenges, we, members of the technical communication community, have to face.
There was a lineup of over 20 talks and workshops to choose from, but there were 2 or 3 of them
happening at the same time in different rooms. It was a difficult choice, as you could only choose
one to attend. The background of speakers was diverse, from consultants to Ph.D. students, to
professors, to technical experts, and the subjects ranged from operational to academic, from
technical to philosophical. There were enough breaks in-between conferences to discuss with the
speakers and participants and visit the sponsor stands.


Day 2: Technical Communication Workshops and Wrap-up


Day 2 was the day of workshops, and my co-volunteer and I arrived earlier to meet up with
Katharina Willer, our volunteer team lead. She briefed us on our tasks of registering participants for
the workshops they signed up for. At 9 am, the participants started coming in, and my co-volunteer
and I were both happy to welcome them to their respective workshops. After signing up everyone,
we were then free to attend the workshops.

Maiken Blok, once again took the stage, to wrap up the 2-day event with a closing speech. The
strength of the conference is in its cozy venue and high level of personal interaction. This allowed
quality conversations to transpire and lent a stronger sense of community to everyone that attended.


Learnings and Insights as Volunteer Experience at Tekom


Volunteering at conferences is a great way to meet and learn from industry experts and gain skills in
events management. It teaches you valuable soft skills such as teamwork, collaboration, and
responsibility as you work together with the event organizers, volunteer team leads, and fellow
volunteers.
As a student, my volunteering is a good opportunity to apply my learnings outside the classroom,
and attend the event for free in exchange for helping out. It opens doors to future collaborations or
job prospects through the people you have met. Oftentimes, it can be intimidating to be in a room
with hundreds or thousands of people, but having a volunteer role becomes an easy icebreaker to
introduce oneself and socialize.


Lastly, no contribution is too small, and as part of the community, this is one of the many ways we
students can give back.


Interested in a career in Technical Communication? Check out the University of Strasbourg’s Master in
Technical Communication and Localization (TCLoc) course offering
, and tekom, Europe’s biggest
organization on Technical Communication.

The Field of Technical Communication and Localization

Traditionally, language and culture experts have taken up work in teaching or translation professions. These professions can be very rewarding in the early stages of their career. After a few years, however, the career tends to reach a flat curve, and one starts to look for alternative career options.

There is good news for professionals looking for a career change. The emergence of the field of technical communication has created an array of new career options for language and culture experts. Additionally, the fields related to technical communication, such as localization, documentation, content management, and marketing, offer further career options for language and culture experts.


What is Technical Communication?

Technical communication means conveying technical information on a variety of topics to a specific target group. The aim is to make the information easily understandable, so the user can safely use the product or service in question. The information product a technical communicator creates can be user manuals for products or services, documentation for a global audience or localization of the content to suit a specific geographical region or country.

Many people associate technical communication with technical writing. With the advent of the Internet, digital tools, and technology, the task of a technical communicator goes way beyond technical writing. A technical communicator’s work involves the analysis, design, and development of information products, as well as implementation, localization, refinement, and documentation. The use of visual communication plays an important role in presenting information in the digital era.


Why is Localization Important?

Multinational companies (MNCs) that operate in global markets often need to distribute their information products across the world. This involves creating the original documents, translating them into multiple languages, and adapting them to the culture of the target market. This work is often done with the help of content management systems (CMS) as well as computer-assisted translation tools (CAT tools) for translation and terminology management.

Hence, an aspiring technical communicator needs to get an overview of the various aspects of technical communication, as well as the digital tools and software systems associated with it.

Building Skills and Qualifications

If you are looking for an introduction to the field of technical communication or an industry-recognized certification, the “Technical Communicator – Professional Level” certification provided by tekom, is a good starting point. Tekom is the largest European professional association of technical communication.

The TCLoc master’s program is tightly linked with tekom. The TCLoc master’s program offers courses in all the important topics in the field of technical communication and localization. With this qualification, it is easy to find jobs and new career options since the field of localization and technical communication grows continuously.

Contact us

If you are looking for a career change and find this program interesting, do not hesitate! It is time to apply for this year’s July intake. You can contact the program director Dr Renate de la Paix or the program coordinator Ms Valérie Ledermann for further information. They are happy to help you.

For many years, companies paid only little attention to technical documentation. Most documentation that was needed when selling a product was written by employees lacking professional knowledge in this field. In most cases, product managers wrote the documentation for their products. Today, this has changed. This is the reason why we offer you a quick guide to getting your technical communicator career started.

In the past couple of years, the thinking in all kinds of industries started shifting. Companies started searching for so-called technical communicators or technical writers to write all kinds of documentation. But what kind of expertise does somebody who wants to get into this field need to be successful? How exactly does one become a technical communicator?

What Is a Technical Communicator?

The short answer is: somebody who writes all sorts of technical documentation. But what exactly is technical documentation? The “European Association for Technical Communication“ or short “tekom” defines technical documentation as: “[…] the process of defining, creating and delivering information products for the safe, efficient and effective use of products (technical systems, software, services).” 

Finding the Right Technical Communication Degree

There are multiple ways to gain knowledge and start your career in this field. If you are somebody who just finished school and are now looking to find a suitable career path – great! You have quite a lot of options. There is a variety of bachelor’s programs that can get you into the field of technical communication. 

If you are situated in Europe, tekom offers a list on their website containing all bachelor’s programs that are suitable. Of course, you can dive right into your dream job after finishing your bachelor’s degree. But you can also continue learning by starting a master’s program. In addition, Tekom also offers a list with suitable master’s programs.

Whether you are choosing a bachelor’s or a master’s program, keep in mind that even though they all may land you a job in this field, there are also some differences in these programs. Therefore, make sure to take a close look at the curriculum and find a program that suits you and the job you are aspiring to achieve. 

If you are still reading, that means that you are either :

  1. a) fall into the category above and are just starting out with your career
  2. b) are now regretting that you did not read this blog post sooner. 

If you are in the first category, hopefully you have found the answers you were looking for. In case you fall into the second category, keep reading! I promise, there are still plenty of ways to start your career as a technical communicator.

If you thought your future entailed a career in a completely different field and have just now changed your opinion, you are in good company. Technical communication is a field with a lot of career changers. If you already hold a bachelor’s degree (or even a master’s) the easiest way to start your technical communicator career is to choose a master’s program from the list above. If you do not want to go back to being a full-time student, there are even a couple of online programs, such us the TCLoc master’s program offered by the University of Strasbourg.

Do I Need a Degree or Are There Alternatives Like a Technical Writing Certificate?

Depending on your current job description and your previous knowledge, there may be a little shortcut available for you: getting certified as a technical communicator.

Tekom offers a course that can be completed entirely online. In this course, you will learn about all things technical communication – from standards to terminology management. By the end of the course, you will be able to call yourself a technical communicator certified by tekom.

Good to know: The TCLoc master’s program includes a collaboration with tekom. By the end of the program, you will not only hold a master’s degree, but also you will be certified by tekom.

If you enjoyed this quick guide to getting your technical communicator career started and read this blog post, feel free to share it on social media. To get more info about technical communication, reach out to tekom via Twitter, Xing or LinkedIn.

What is “Docs as Code?”

“Docs as Code” means managing technical documentation in the same way developers would manage their code. Let me explain in simple terms what a typical software development process is. First, developers write code using a text editor and commit it to the version control system to share it with members and receive any version changes. Then, the lead developer reviews and merges the code. Finally, they build and release the finalized code. Technical writers can apply this software development process to technical documentation using the same tools as developers. 

Docs as Code tools

You will need the following components for technical documentation:

  • Text files: Files where your contents exist. It is common to write the content in Markdown format
  • Text editor: Software used to write code/content, equivalent to Microsoft Word in the non-dev world. Atom or Sublime is recommended for beginners. 
  • Version control and collaboration tool: The system that will be used to track the changes in the files. Git is currently the most popular. 
  • Static site generator: A static site generator is necessary for converting text files into HTML format for publishing. Jekyll or Hugo are commonly used for this operation.  

In practice: How it works with Docs as Code tools

Here is the common process for Docs as Code: 

  1. Write your content in a plain text format (Markdown, etc.) using a text editor. 
  2. Commit the content and its changes to Git. 
  3. Your reviewer will find your commit and merge your branch if it is accepted. 
  4. Put the final text file in the static site generator to change your content into HTML format. 
  5. When the review processes are completed, you can deploy the docs to the target, cloud, or server.  

Why Docs as Code is rewarding for technical writers

Taking a non-dev role in a software company is challenging but beneficial at the same time. 

Follow the same review process as the developers using Git

Developers use the Git system to submit their code and changes, which are reviewed by their co-workers before being accepted to be merged into the master code branch by the lead engineer. This is the key review process that helps maintain the quality and uniformity of the code for the product. The same goes for technical writers. With Docs as Code, technical writers do not need to ask for explanations or alert everyone to changes, but can instead catch modifications through the code review process in Git. 

Easy sync with the product and version tracking

Using collaborative documentation editors such as wikis or Confluence to track versions and contents for every update takes time and effort in practice. But by having Docs as Code, we can have the documentation live right along with the code, and it makes technical contents sync with the product more easily compared to an independent documentation system. 

Writers and developers integrated within the product team

Using the same tools as developers helps the team work more efficiently. If your product is just a simple version of hosted web pages, then this might not sound attractive. But highly complex products need a large amount of extensive documentation. This eventually requires developers and writers to not only contribute to documentation cooperatively, but also review each other’s changes. Docs as Code will help both parties feel like they are on the same team. 

Professional growth

The acquisition of these skills will be of greatest benefit to you as a writer in the long run. If there are writers who write content directly as part of the product codes and writers who write well, who would you hire if you were the company owner?

Summary

Are you worried about learning Docs as Code tools? The effort required to learn these tools is much less than learning a new human language. (And I know most technical writers are geniuses at learning new languages). I am confident that the results will provide you with more than just personal career growth. 

Interested in being a writer in the IT field? Find more articles here, Certifications for Technical Writers Transitioning Into the (IT) Field

Overview: Terminology Management is the process of identifying the standardized terms that a business will use to communicate within the company, with stakeholders, and with employees. Traditionally speaking, terminology management has been used to document processes, explain services or products, and build brand recognition (think of Nike’s “Just Do It” motto).

What if terminology management could go a step further to provide additional benefits for employees within the company? Fortunately, terminology management can empower companies to regain their voice. It also fosters conversations that can help their employees process various concerns. 

Why Using Terminology Management and Cultivate Terminology for Employee Conversations

With media and technology being so heavily incorporated into one’s daily life, distressing or even uplifting news can be difficult for an employee to completely abandon during work hours. Businesses can show their support or acknowledgment of their employees’ perspectives by helping to develop terminology for these uncomfortable conversations. 

Furthermore, established terminology helps companies decide on how to approach controversial news and how the company may or may not respond. The COVID-19 pandemic, for example, posed unforeseen hardships for a great number of employees world-wide such as financial challenges, health risks, and childcare concerns. Most global businesses were forced to develop policies and adopt or create terminology. 

Whether the mass concern is a pandemic or another significant life event, terminology management provides companies’ the ability to release consistent and professional updates internally to employees and externally to potential employees, stakeholders, and even customers. 

How to Develop Terminology Management for Employee Discussions

A company cannot address every controversial event reported in the media. However, it must focus on addressing the events that are related to or threaten a company’s core values. Guiding steps for developing internal terminology management for employees appears below:

  1. Determine which concerns or new updates the company wishes to address.
    • I.e. race or sex discrimination, inclusivity, disabilities, etc. 

NOTE: This step is an ongoing process as companies and concerns continue to evolve.

  1. Decide which department will be responsible for creating, updating, storing, and communicating company terminology. 
  1. Create the necessary resources.

       NOTE: Companies will have to decide on using one comprehensive resource that lists all communication preferences or several individualized sources that address different concerns. 

  1. Share resources with employees.

NOTE: Resources that are intended to promote or guide conversations must be shared with employees to be effective. Consider regularly promoting these resources or including them within employee training.


Recommended Tips

Step three, or creating the necessary resources, can be a difficult stage if the company is unsure of the best format for recording this type of information.One beneficial method may be creating a terminology style guide in Excel. An Excel spreadsheet can act as a quick reference material since it organizes information by tabs and charts. 

This format allows the company to present commonly used verbiage next to the company’s preferred verbiage. For instance, employees may commonly write or say “disabled people”, but if the company wishes to promote person/people-first language, the terminology guide would provide the term “person with a disability” as the preferred terminology for internal and external communication (see the example below). Despite how these terms are recorded, companies must continue to update terminology resources.


Necessary Actions

Research is imperative when developing or adopting new terminology, especially when referring to specific communities or events. If the company is attempting to incorporate more representative language for a community, then contact members of the specific community to discover which terms they prefer. When community members are unavailable, gather commonly used terms from credible sources. You can also decide which are most appropriate to include within company resources.

If the company is not addressing a specific community, research the most accurate and professional terms used to discuss the subject(s). For example, what could be used instead of the informal term “handicapped parking”? The company would provide “accessible parking” as the formal and acceptable alternative. 

Employee Focus

Using standardized terminology not only helps companies navigate conversations on important matters, but demonstrates the company’s value for their employees. Developing or adopting language that supports respectful discussions on impactful events further promotes a safe and inclusive work environment. In today’s modern world, employees prioritize and seek companies that value their individual well-being and voice. Terminology management is one communication tool businesses should implement to further support their employees.

Do you think terminology management is helpful for employees and employers? Share your thoughts with us on LinkedIn!

APIs are widespread in the internet ecosystem. This article discusses why API documentation is so crucial and how you can become an API technical writer.

Internet applications are rarely standalone. They are connected to other applications offering different types of services. These behind-the-scenes applications are not always visible to the users. The building blocks of these interactions are APIs, or “Application programming interfaces.” Their number has grown tremendously in the past years, according to this analysis from ProgrammableWeb.

APIs enable communication between two systems: 

  1. The first application provides a service. This application exposes its service on the internet through a technical interface: the API.
  2. The second application, the “client,” is interested in the service provided and will use the API to access it. 

For example, the API can be an interface to a payment service. The second application can be an e-commerce store using this API to enable online payments for their customers.

Why Is API Documentation Key?

Software developers on the client side rely mainly on the technical documentation, describing how to code correctly the “calls” made to the API. Good quality API documentation is critical to ensure the adoption of the API by new clients and to make it easy to use. According to the 2021 “State of the API” report from Postman:

  • Documentation is the fourth parameter taken into account when wanting to use an API.
  • Documentation is the number one pain point when using an API.

So if you are a technical writer interested in breaking into the internet industry, writing API documentation is a fundamental skill to have. 

How to Start

Firstly, you need to know the basics of technical writing. It includes the following skills:

  • writing in a controlled and straightforward language,
  • structuring documentation in a clear and meaningful manner,
  • following standards such as applying a style guide or respecting a legal framework.

If you are not familiar with technical writing, following a course on this topic can be beneficial to get started. You can look into this free technical writing course by Google. This resource is an excellent introduction to writing for a software developer’s audience. 

Then to become an API technical writer, you need to learn about the technology itself. The most popular type of API, called “REST,” is simple to get started with. To try out a REST API, you can use free tools easily accessible from a web browser. This extensive “Documenting API” course can guide you through the process. 

Creating a portfolio to showcase your experience can benefit you when applying to API technical writer jobs. While you are learning, you can write samples of documentation. For this purpose, you can do the following:

  • Write your own version of documentation of a publicly available API that you can test without being a paying customer.
  • Contribute to an open-source project needing an API technical writer to create documentation.

If you want to go deeper and pursue an academic degree in technical writing, TCLoc online master’s program from Strasbourg University in France will spark your interest. You can learn more about the content of this career-oriented program on the curriculum page.

When starting a career in technical communication, most people regularly plan for and consciously consider items such as paid time off, salary offers, and opportunities for promotions. In recent years, company culture has become another significant factor which demonstrates a company’s prioritization of a much larger corporate value– ethics.

Ethics can be easily dismissed by individuals and companies that assume they know ‘right’ from ‘wrong’, but ethics– just like any other field of study– includes a deeper level of consciousness. To help provide clarity on how ethics can be consciously incorporated into one’s profession, this article will review three instances in which ethics should be considered: within one’s industry, within one’s profession, and within one’s personal values.

Business Ethics

For the purpose of this article, business-based ethics are principles that guide employees within a work environment or company. Ethics are necessary in helping businesses prevent an unfair or toxic work environment and, in more extreme cases, to protect a company from future lawsuits. For instance, larger corporations tend to prevent employees from accepting expensive or luxurious gifts from clients as it could lead to favoritism or be viewed as a bribe. Guidelines for situations such as giving or receiving gifts are commonly documented in resources like a company’s code of conduct book, an employee handbook, or a policies and regulations booklet.

Companies document and develop training for various ethical situations or concerns to educate their employees on appropriate ethical responses and to familiarize their staff with the points of contact for different matters. When researching a company you would like to join, check to see if they have posted any of these employee resources online. If you can access these resources, consider reviewing them and asking yourself the questions listed below.

  • Are the resources up to date?
  • Do the resources include points of contact?
  • Do the resources discuss how to respond accordingly in unfamiliar situations?
  • Do the company’s resources adequately discuss ethics in the workplace?

Asking questions can help you determine a potential employer’s commitment to ethics, or how well a potential employer’s ethical values align with your own. Conducting research before an interview can help you determine if this company is somewhere you would like to work. If you are unsure based on your research, consider asking questions about their commitment to ethics or company culture during your interview.

Profession-Based Ethics

Unlike the guiding policies and regulations that often govern individuals in the workplace, profession-based ethics are more specific to one’s job title. For example, the Society of Technical Communication (STC) is a community that offers resources and a networking space to its members. A core aspect of maintaining membership and benefitting from the organization’s opportunities is committing to the STC’s ethical principles of Legality, Honesty, Confidentiality, Quality, Fairness, and Professionalism. The Association of Teachers of Technical Writing (ATTW) is also a profession-based organization that clearly outlines the ethical responsibilities of their members. A code of ethics or oath is common within professional communities, since each functions as a method of responsibility and accountability assurance.

Joining communities such as the STC or the ATTW is not a requirement to work within technical communication, but these networks can help guide your actions and provide extra resources on the topic of ethics. A professional network offers many benefits, such as safe space for working through ethical dilemmas that may have been encountered within your workplace. In new and unfamiliar situations, the ethical decision can feel very unclear. However, having a professional network to consult prevents you from feeling alone.

Personal Ethics

Personal ethics are simply your own pre-developed ethical boundaries. Knowing your own ethical boundaries or obligations is crucial as your guiding principles will allow you to make healthy commitments, feel confident in your own decisions, and better support the companies that align with your values.

One personal boundary you might set that could influence your professional decision-making process may include the protection of others’ private information. If your boss insists on knowing about a private conversation between you and a co-worker, establishing a boundary on the release of shared personal information provides you the necessary confidence to deny further elaboration. Your discussion may include emphasizing that your conversation was private or addressing the specific concerns that your boss may hold. Regardless, knowing your personal needs and boundaries helps foster better relationships and helps you evaluate your company’s ethical commitments.

Being conscious of your own code of ethics empowers you to ask questions and to seek advice. Ultimately, individuals who consider ethics within their decision-making process are more likely to resolve feelings of discomfort by familiarizing themselves with the resources within their workplace or trusted professional communities.

Ethics in Action

Personal ethics is our foundational belief system that inevitably guides our professional and industry based decisions. Within one’s career, a personal ethics statement is a tool that technical communicators can use to convey their values and how these principles are displayed in the various aspects of their life. The half page statement is a wonderful document you can use to share how your personal experiences have shaped your core values. Once you have developed your personal ethics statement, share it on your LinkedIn, add it to your writing portfolio, or bring it to your next job interview to demonstrate your ethical commitments. 

Did you develop a personal ethics statement? Share it on LinkedIn and tag Master TCLoc or comment your experience on our LinkedIn post!

In this article, technical writers will learn how to create a writing portfolio and how to choose which samples of writing to include.

Purpose of a Writing Portfolio

Within the job market, technical writers increase their competitiveness as a candidate by reassuring an employer that they are the most qualified for the position. One method for proving one’s qualifications is by using a writing portfolio.

Similar to a resume or cover letter, technical writers can create a writing portfolio to further communicate their skills and experience. The main difference between a writing portfolio and a resume or cover letter is that a portfolio compiles completed writing samples, allowing writers to demonstrate their applied skills and showcase their diverse projects, capabilities, and strengths. Providing your samples of writing during the interview process allows employers to ask more in-depth questions about your work experience, which can make a significant difference in assessing one’s credibility and fitness for a specific role.

Compiling Samples of Writing

As candidates must adjust their resumes and cover letter for different positions and companies, writers must do the same when they create a writing portafolio. For instance, an IT technical writing position may require candidates to demonstrate proficiency in drafting instruction sets, while a technical writing position in healthcare may require candidates to demonstrate proficiency in drafting grants. Timothy Esposito, a logistics documentation manager at Oracle, shared in an interview that he is most likely to hire candidates with writing samples of the work that his team produces at the company. Due to the varying expectations and responsibilities, individuals should refer to the job description of their desired position.

Individuals who have recently obtained a degree or individuals who are transitioning into technical writing may find it difficult to compile writing samples. Consider the materials that you have drafted within your education or within other positions. Can any of these materials be updated, revised, or expanded upon? If the answer is no, set aside time to draft some writing samples based on the company’s needs or requests. New writers can begin by reviewing and revising existing content, such as an instruction manual for a common household appliance. Then, begin drafting and refining your own samples.

Individuals who are experienced technical writers can use existing documentation from volunteer work, documentation developed for friends or family, and even documentation that they developed for themselves, such as a style sheet. As mentioned earlier, the samples included within one’s portfolio will vary based on the job description and candidate requirements.

Creating a Writing Portfolio

Please note that if a writer intends to use a document that was developed at a previous job, it is imperative that he/she receives written consent to post or share the document. Even if the company’s logo and identifiable information is removed, most companies still own the intellectual property developed by their employees. Without written consent from a former or current employer, a writer can encounter copyright and legal issues for sharing this work.

To avoid copyright infringement, Mr. Esposito recommends sharing your work that is accessible by the public, known as the public domain. For example, a website page that you may have collaborated on with former colleagues.

After determining which samples to include, writers must dedicate time to revise and update their samples as needed. Some samples may require a brief description of the document that explains the purpose, layout, and relevant terminology. Ideally, the chosen samples should demonstrate the best pieces of work that the writer has completed and, therefore, should be typo and error-free. Writers who typically review their own work should have another writer or trustworthy person review these materials for typos.

Maintaining a Portfolio

A writing portfolio must be shared to be effective. Today, the most common method for sharing professional information is LinkedIn. If a job application does not include a section for submitting writing samples, reference the portfolio within your cover letter and resume. Then, provide a link to your LinkedIn so that the employer may easily access your samples. According to Mr. Esposito, another effective method for sharing a writing portfolio with employers is by developing a website and sharing your website link. Technical writers can use a website to organize different samples and provide additional details about their work or experience gained.

Remember to update your LinkedIn profile and portfolio regularly to ensure the information is current and accurate. Was this information helpful? Consider sharing the article on LinkedIn to help other technical writers!