Want to be a Better Tech Pro? Learn to Write.

Mark Koschmeder
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Tech professionals who can't write clearly are laboring under a handicap. The world's technical jobs are increasingly being done, at least in part, online, and writing skills are part of the bargain when you aren't face to face with a client, supervisor, or granting agency. Learning to write well consists mainly of developing techniques for better organizing your inner monologue so that it makes sense to others. The advantages to tech professionals in thinking logically are too obvious to need exposition. The training tech professionals get doesn't focus on writing, but without the ability to think clearly, organize those thoughts into a coherent stream of consciousness, and express them comprehensibly to others, you're missing out on more than you know.

Communicating with colleagues is central to the work of tech professionals everywhere. Simply to get by in the field, you're occasionally going to have to write specs, an outline, or a list of requirements that will be easily read by other tech professionals who are in a position to give you the support you need. Being able to reach out effectively, and to persuade reluctant partners to get involved with your project is a major advantage.

You're also going to need writing skills if you plan to hold down a job in the field. Your resume is a story about yourself that you tell potential employers. When you're looking for work, you're selling your experience and your skill set to a business or government agency and hoping the reviewer takes you seriously. Being able to craft a compelling narrative about your value as an employee makes you the candidate to beat in the job search. The need to make a case for yourself is felt even more keenly by freelance tech professionals who find themselves working to win over new clients almost as much as they work on the clients' projects themselves.

Still another reason for tech professionals to learn to write is popularization. Popularizing technical work might seem beyond the wheelhouse of a software engineer or database administrator, but the public is ultimately footing the bill for what you do. Members of the general public pay as customers of your company, taxpayers supporting basic research, and voters who decide on bond measures to support STEM programs at training academies. Your ability to reach out to ordinary people and to explain the value of what you do for a living is crucial to the future of high technology in the United States.

Learning to write takes many forms. Tech professionals aren't required to learn how to write novels, but even the least literary technician will sooner or later be called on to communicate something about the work, its requirements, or its outcomes to others. That communication will almost certainly be in writing, and it behooves tech professionals to do it clearly and well.

 

 

(Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net)

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