Do Technical Writers Need to Learn Programming Language

Kesi Parker
May 14 · 3 min read

FAQ on Technical Writing

Nowadays, writing is not the only skill that’s required for technical writers because professional tools for creating documentation have become more complex. The days when tech writers used MS Word for simply typing a text have gone. Technical writing requires more effort now — documentation is not just a text anymore. Now tech writers pay much attention to details — they add context help, info/warning boxes, videos, charts, code samples and the like which make documentation more effective. But it’s just the tip of the iceberg because the technology develops and there are numerous types of documentation which technical writers are working on. For example, it’s obligatory to know a programming language if you’re writing API documentation that aims to help clients or users implement API and understand how it works.

I think these reasons are good enough to think about starting learning a programming language.

What does it mean to “know” a programming language to a technical writer?

Technical writers don’t have to know and use a programming language as developers do. The goal of tech writers is to be familiar with the different concepts, have an ability to read the code and other basic skills.

Of course, to know the language more in-depth is better because it allows you to create high-quality content, work on different projects. However, some technical writers still don’t know a programming language because they haven’t faced any issues, and that’s also ok.

But what if it’s required to know a programming language? Where to start?

First of all, decide what language you should learn. Here is the article of Bradley Nice called ‘Which programming language to learn first’ where he clearly describes the advantages of the most popular languages. He says that you should pay attention to Python, JavaScript, C#, Swift, Java.

Codinginfinite.com, a platform for developers, also says that the most popular programming languages to learn in 2019 are the following.

Of course, this chart is for programmers but the results are relevant for tech writers, too. You’ll work with different professionals on different projects and you should understand what they are talking about.

Moreover, keep in mind that technical writers work on different documentation, interact with different platforms, communicate with professionals who know various programming languages, and the goal of a technical writer is to know the terminology and understand the basic principles of a programming language. So my advice is the following — you don’t need to learn a programming language as well as developers do. Understanding the basics should be more than enough.

What should you do if you have not worked with a programming language and don’t know anything about it?

The best way is just to start reading blogs/books about a programming language of your interests, take courses for beginners, find some online resources to practice on your own.

So, do technical writers need to learn a programming language? It depends on your job requirements and interests but, of course, if you know a programming language, it’ll help you move up the career ladder faster. In my next post, I will provide you with services that will help you learn a programming language from scratch. Follow me not to miss my new articles!

Do you think a tech writer needs to learn a programming language? Have you ever used one or came across a situation you needed the knowledge?

Share your experience in the comment section below! Let’s grow together!


Technical Writing is Easy

Technical writing is for everyone!

Kesi Parker

Written by

Job position: Freelance Technical Writer. I use ClickHelp for technical writing.

Technical Writing is Easy

Technical writing is for everyone!

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