Getting into technical writing
Thread poster: Nicolas Bonsignore

Nicolas Bonsignore  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:02
Member (2005)
English to French
+ ...
Oct 29, 2007

Hi Colleagues,

I was wondering if that's "easy" for a translator to get into technical writing.
Could you share your experience, comments and opinions on that topic?
Do you know anything about the rates applicable in that area?

Thanks a lot for the help,



Ken Cox  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:02
German to English
+ ...
do you mean technical writing or technical translation? Oct 29, 2007

Technical writing is a distinct discipline with its own rules, and (at least in English) there are many courses available on the subject. I can't say what might be available in Belgium in the way of training, but you could check your local vocational schools and colleges.

Technical translation is a speciality, just like medical, legal or literary. It generally requires good technical writing skills and a good knowledge of the subject (essentially, it's hard to translate something you don't understand).

Generally speaking, translators have an above-average interest in language (and hopefully also an above-average aptitude), which is beneficial for any sort of work involving language and composition.

However, technical writing is a speciality, and the product of your average school system is not trained to do good technical writing. I would certainly recommend taking at least an introductory course if you want to get into the field.

[Edited at 2007-10-29 10:32]


Nicolas Bonsignore  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:02
Member (2005)
English to French
+ ...
I meant technical writing Oct 29, 2007

Thanks for the info Ken.

Any further info on training in that field would be highly appreciated.


Igor Indruch  Identity Verified
Czech Republic
Local time: 12:02
English to Czech
I do technical writing Oct 29, 2007

Because I am a writer on the first place. I have two fiction books published and I write artickles for IT magazines from time to time. I also do some copywriting for web pages etc.

The problem in such a small market like Czech republic with so many foreign companies is that technical texts are mostly translated from original language, not created localy. So I have definitely more jobs as translator. But situation is changing slowly as even small local companies are beginning to realize that it is very important to have professionally writen technical documentations, web pages, marketing collateral etc.

Prices here are comparable to translating, but it is sometimes more difficult to negotiate them.

As for the process, I do not see much difference between writing and translating. To be a good translator, you need to be creative and have a good writing style. And those are the key prerequisites for technical writing too. There are some pros and cons of course. In writing you have more freedom but less guidence. Generally you need better knowledge about the subject, but it varies. You need more knowledge when writing an article with some of your own opinion expressed. When creating text for company webpage, on the other hand, you have usually enough data from your client.


Can Altinbay  Identity Verified
Local time: 06:02
Japanese to English
+ ...
What it entails Oct 29, 2007

Nicolas Bonsignore wrote:

Thanks for the info Ken.

Any further info on training in that field would be highly appreciated.

My wife is a technical writer, and I have written some technical manuals (user and programmer) myself.

You have to be able to structure technical documents. Yes, there is some obvious first level structure, but within that, how do you organize the information?

You have to be able to talk to technical people, such as programmers, and translate, yes translate, what they say into language a nontechnical person can understand.

You will need some kind of standards document. I understand BM publishes one, and there was a reference for that in these forums not long ago. Microsoft's was really wonderful (and I don't say that about Microsoft very often), but I don't think they publish it any more. On line book stores might still offer them, though. Microsoft may also have it on line.

It's a bit different for documents that are meant for technical people (API, requirements, etc.), though I feel that even here, everyday language is better than tech talk. In all cases, keep it simple.

My wife always says, "Don't write to impress, write to inform", and that's probably the single most important thing to know.

If you have any questions, let me know.


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