As Featured On EzineArticles
By Narain Balchandani

Competencies are described as the ability to do a particular activity to prescribed standard.
The competencies can be classified into three categories 

    1. Behaviour Skill and Personal Qualities

Good Communication Skill
Communication encompasses building rapport, listening, influencing and creating empathy. Communication is the backbone of the skill set required by a technical writer. Unless having good communication skill, a technical writer cannot interact with the SMEs /project managers and collect the required information.

Attention to Details
To get a desired, appropriate and expected result all the details concerned should be paid proper attention. Any project may face many issues, if proper attention is not paid.

Team Working
A good technical writer should be a good team player. Unless he is a good team player, he can’t work effectively and produce the expected output. One should have a good understanding of the role within a team and what needs to be done .Appreciation for other’s work is also very important to ensure that the project objectives are achieved..

Relationship Building
One should have the ability to get on well with other people in an organization and build good relationship with others so that other team members will also have good relationship with him.

Flexible BehaviourOne should be able to present his point of view without hurting other’s feelings and should be always positive in presenting his ideas without being arrogant.

Ability to Assess User Perspective
One should have the ability to think as an end user and understand the requirement and produce the output. Without understanding the requirement and how the information will be used, proper documentation cannot be produced.

Ability to Quickly Grasp Technology
One should be able to learn new tools and technologies quickly. ie: a  technical writer should  always have a willingness  to learn new technologies .

Active Listener
Only a good listener can become a good communicator, without having good listening skills a technical writer will not be able to gather information from SMEs and managers. So to become a good technical, one should be good listener too.

Enjoy Learning
A good technical writer should always have the passion for learning and should enjoy learning.

    2. Business Knowledge

Software Development Life Cycle
A technical writer should have the knowledge of the various phases involved in Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC).SDLC is the complete set of process a developer follows while   developing software.

Document Development Life Cycle
Document Development Life Cycle is the complete logical set of process that author follows when writing documentation with reference to a context. Similar to SDLC, the DDLC usually runs in parallel to SDLC. The DDLC helps a technical writer to follow each documentation stage in a methodical way.

Interviewing Skills
While documenting a technical writer may come across various complex terms for which he needs clarification from SMEs or project managers. To get clarification and collect the required information, a technical writer should therefore have good interviewing skills.

Usability and Testing Skills
The document developed should be user friendly .ie: it should be easily understandable and readable.

Assessment Skill
A technical writer should have good assessment skill. Good assessment skill helps to understand whether the objectives are met or not and whether the document is user friendly.

Basic Knowledge of UML
At present UML is the industry standard for modeling a system. A technical writer must know what is use case, actor ,system boundary and template for software specification which specify glossary of terms ,use case diagrams, complete description of each case, supplementary specification which comprises nonfunctional requirement of a system.

Format for Software Requirement Specification
At present UML is the industry standard for modeling a system. A technical writer must know  template for software specification which specify glossary of terms ,use case diagrams and complete description of each  use case.

Format for Installation Guide

    Configure Software: If installing an operating system users may want to configure their desktop pattern or their mouse .

    Set Preferences: When installing Word for windows, you can have the option of choosing WordPerfect Help or not. Create Directories: Users may need to create a directory on their hard disk for the software. Type Registration number, Phone numbers and Port codes: Users may need to type in their registration number so that, technical support can identify the user’s system. Choose from list of hardware: Printer, CD-ROM etc. Save, Replace, Rename or Overwrite the system files.: AUTOEXE.BAT or CONFIG..SYS file in Windows. Make a backup copy: Many operating system installations require users to make a backup copy while they are installed. Confirm that the operating system is the correct version : Users may realize that they don’t have the right operating system which supports the software, so they may become unable to install it.

Format for Configuration Guide
Configuration Guidelines are prepared from configuration policy of a company which defines how the work products versions are changed and managed in a defined policy.

Format for User Guide

    Every manufactured product comes complete with either a short instruction booklet or with a more detailed user’s manual. A user Guide usually contains three main parts: Front Matter, Body and Back Matter Front Matter: This contains the Title Page, Disclaimer, Preface, TOC&TOF. Title: The document should have a title that tells the name of the product or the service and the purpose of instruction. Disclaimer:This describes the copy right and ownership of the company. Preface:This section gives a  short description of the product and the manual. TOC-Table of Content. TOF-Table of Figures. Body Organize the content :Organize the instruction effectively with an introduction which gives a short description of the product and the manual.Then mention prerequisites ,precautions if any,document conventions and the body of the document which contains step-by-step instructions for using the product. Back Matter:This part contains Index,Glossary,FAQs,Referencesand Feedback Form. Index:This lists the index terms which are used in the document. Glossary:This lists the terms with its definition. FAQ:Frequently Asked Questions Feedback Form:

Reference Guide Format
Reference guides are usually organized alphabetically by menu item or by problem.For citing a reference ,the name of all the authors, the title of the journal in the abbreviated form ,volume number,year and page number should be given.

Release Note Format

    A release note usually includes the following . Header:This contains notes),product name,release number,release date ,notes version etc. Overview:A brief overview of the product and changes in the absence of other formal documentation. Purpose-A brief overview of the purpose of the release note with a listing of what is new in this release, including bug fixes and new features. Issue Summary: A short description of the bug or the enhancement in the release. Steps to Reproduce: The steps that were followed when the bug was encountered. Resolution: A short description of the modification/enhancement that was made to fix the bug. End- User Impact: What different actions are needed by the end- user of the application. This should include what other functionality is impacted by these changes. Support Impacts: Changes required in the daily process of administering the software. Notes: Notes about software or hardware installation, upgrades and product documentation(including documentation updates). Disclaimer: Company standards and product related messages.      Eg:Freeware ,antipiracy,duplication etc. Contact:support contact information.

Maintanance Guide

    Software maintenance is the modification of a software product after delivery to correct faults,to improve performance or other attributes, or to adapt the product to a modified environment. This includes: Transition: A controlled and coordinated sequence of activities during which a system is transferred progressively from the developer to the maintainer. Service Level Agreements(SLAs) and specialized(domain -specific) maintanance contracts negotiated by maintainers. Modification Request and Problem Report Help Desk:a problem handling process used by intainers to prioritize, documents and route the requests they receive; Modification Request acceptance /rejection: modification request work over a certain size/effort/complexity may be rejected by maintainers and rerouted to a developer.

API Reference Documentation

    Template for Javadoc doclet as under (Eclipse) Document Title:Specify a document title Use Page:Select this option if we want the document to contain a Use page. Hirerachy Tree:Select this option if we want the document to contain a Tree page. Navigation Bar:Select htis option if we want the document to contain navigation bar(header & footer). Index:Select this option if want the document to contain an Index page. Index per letter:Create an index per letter. @author:Select this option if we want the author tag to be documented. Deprecated list:Select this option if we want the document to contain a deprecated page.

Administration Guide

    Overview Managing Users Configure and Schedule Backups Server Settings Server Security Manage Repository Folder Hierarchy Repository Templates Importing Existing Repositories Advanced Website Configuration Configuring Sublime with Apache Import Existing Users Frequently Asked Questions Known Issues Upgrading Sublime

White Paper Format

    A white paper is generally ten pages in length including the covers.The paper should contain the following information: Page One-Title page that includes in large type the title of the paper,in smaller type the name of the author,the name of the company, and the date. Page Two-This should contain all the copyright information. Page Three-The introduction to the company producing the paper including a very brief description on the services offered.It should also include a description of what is contained in the paper. Page Four to Eight-The body of the paper.This should be written in a format that gives the reader atleast seven major points. Page Nine-The Conclusion Page Ten-The Back Cover-could contain ordering information for additional papers,books,seminars or similar items.This should be brief and to the point.

Case Studies

    This should have the following format Background:Give a background to your project.Remember to include any relevant references in this format. Problem Being Addressed:Describe the problem being addressed. Approach taken:Describe the approach taken Problems experienced :Summarise any problems experienced. References:Give references in the following format. Title,Author.

Thought Papers

    A.Introductory paragraph

      1.Write a lead sentence that gains the reader’s attention.

      2.Introduce the thesis or primary argument.

      3.introduce sub-arguments or sub-themes that you are going to use to support your thesis.

    B.Body of the paper

    1.Discuss the sub-themes that are identified in the introductory paragraph,in separate paragraphs.

    2.Write down page numbers of the book(document reader or textbook)that are going to be used to support these sub-themes.

    C. Conclusion

    1.Restate your thesis and sub-themes.

    2.Write any closing comments.

    3.Software Tools

    Microsoft Word :is a documentation tool developed by Microsoft. This tool helps to write, edit and save data as files. It is a powerful tool to create professional looking documents.   Adobe FrameMaker: is a documentation tool similar to Word and is developed by Adobe. It combines word processing page layout, graphics and work with long documents of capabilities in one document. We can create books, letters, reports, memos etc.   PageMaker: was the first desktop publishing program introduced in 1985 by Aldus Corporation, which was later acquired by Adobe systems. The last version is PageMaker 7.0.   Quark Express: is a computer application for creating and editing complex page layout in a WYSIWYG environment. It was first released by Quark Inc in 1987 and is still owned and published by them. The most recent version is Quark Express 8.    Robohelp: is a help authoring tool that helps to create online help files. This tool lets you to reduce development time, costs, increase end user’s productivity and satisfaction and provide a progressive path as your help development needs change.   Power Point: is a presentation tool developed by Microsoft .It is a part of Microsoft Office Suite and runs on Microsoft Windows.   Dream Weaver: is a web development application originally created by Macromedia and is now developed by Adobe Systems who acquired Macromedia in 2005.   Photo Shop: is a graphics editing program developed and published by Adobe systems It is the current and primary market leader for commercial bitmap and image manipulation and is the flagship product of Adobe systems. SnagIT: is a capturing tool that helps to capture graphics. It is most popular tool used by technical writers developed by TechSmith Corp.