Software Documentation: Should You Learn Coding?

Posted by
Anastasia in TechComm Career Path on 8/2/20193 min read

Software Documentation: Should You Learn Coding? – image 1 | ClickHelp Blog

On this blog, we are trying to help novice technical writers find a perfect industry to launch their career by reviewing trends in techcomm. Like, for example, we have blogs on salaries of technical writers or industries that employ them.

This information is also great for experienced techcomm people who like to know what's going on in this field to make better career decisions. We believe that keeping an eye on the ball is the right strategy here.

If you read our articles, or know anything about technical writing then you know that the IT industry keeps hiring technical writers a lot and it is a pretty well-paid role there. But, there are certain specifics that scare people away from writing software documentation. We are talking about a preferable skill set dilemma, as in: do you really need to know how to code to be employed as an IT technical writer?

The easy answer to this question is - it depends. We could've ended the post here as we probably won't be able to properly address your unique situation. And, still, we would like to elaborate on this. Perhaps, what we have to say is going to help you understand what being a software technical writer is like and whether you stand a chance in getting this position.

Not All Software Documentation is Equally Complicated

The first thing you need to remember is that not all software user manuals are crazy complicated. If you take a look at serious B2B projects, especially software made for programmers and testers, you will likely see many code samples in the docs, but that should not mislead you.

Yes, a lot of IT businesses hire tech writers with coding skills, that's true, but, there's enough software with much simpler help content aimed at people with no programming knowledge. Besides, a particular software may have more than one manual: there can be an internal one for the programmers who work on it, with lots of code examples and professional terms, and another one - for end-users with plain and simple language.So don’t be afraid of software documentation - there are positions that are easy to get and they can jump-start your future career in IT techcomm.

For Those Who Want to be Tech Writers in IT

Software Documentation: Should You Learn Coding? – image 2 | ClickHelp Blog

Now, several pieces of advice on what you should do to start a technical writer's career in IT if you don't have that many industry-specific skills.

  • Get them skills. No, we are not messing around with you. It is very much possible to get a minimum understanding of computer technologies within a reasonable time period, from a couple of weeks to several months depending on how good you are with computers. IT books for dummies and entry-level knowledge of things like HTML or CSS can help you feel more confident.
  • Study your specific product. This point works if you already have a certain company in mind. The two things you need to do is go through their existing technical documents and get access to the product trial. Study the tool thoroughly by going through each feature. Try to understand the mechanics behind it.
  • Brush up your communication skills. No matter how casual, it is still software documentation which means you will need to consult with subject-matter experts. And, that's where a lot of people experience issues. A couple of seminars on communication should work.

As you can see, these steps are all pretty simple. But, what they can do for you is - they can prep you for working in the new industry.


Although most companies creating software do mention programming as a required skill for a technical writer position, there are IT companies that appreciate basic knowledge of the subject given that you are qualified as a tech writer in general.

If you feel like a job in IT is what you really want, go for it!

Good luck with your technical writing!
ClickHelp Team
Author, host and deliver documentation across platforms and devices


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