Technical writing syllabus

May. 2, 2022

A few months ago, I drafted a technical writing syllabus. It features all the topics that a senior technical writer should master at some point when working on software documentation.

Note that this is not a course (yet). I plan to set aside some time to develop each module into video training materials, but for now it’s just a a shopping list. If you want to follow the syllabus, finding materials is up to you.


There’s never been a better time for technical writing. With the rise of software companies and startups, technical documentation, from manuals to UX writing to API documentation, is becoming a priority for companies wishing to improve the way their products communicate and reach an even wider user base. If a product isn’t documented, it doesn’t exist.

This draft syllabus is aimed at graduates of any degree wishing to start a career in software documentation. The only requirements are a passion for writing in English, a journalistic appetite for understanding how things work and for simplifying the complex, and a fearless, practical attitude towards technology and software programming.

Module I - Write

Introduction to technical communication

What is this all about? Why should you care?

English for technical writers

Technical English is not Joyce’s English. It’s more like Hemingway’s.

Writing for the web

Same words, different medium.

Documentation tools

Navigate the extensive tooling ecosystem for documentation.

Module II - Visualize

Technical illustration

A picture can be worth a thousand words – when done well.

Video and animation

A great video can be worth a million words. Learn the basics of screencasting.

UX and Usability

Technical writing is designing interfaces using words.

Module III - Code

Software development methodologies

Embed in development teams by understanding how they work together.

Writing for software development

Internal documentation requires a slightly different mindset.

Programming basics

Know enough programming to be dangerous. Great technical writers are bad coders.

Module IV - Document

Docs-as-code bootcamp

Learn the principles of modern technical writing for software.

Documenting Web APIs

API documentation is both a design and documentation activity.

Your documentation project

Time to put everything into practice.

A word on metrics and KPIs

How to know if the docs are successful.