Critical to any cybersecurity strategy is communication. Cybersecurity technical writers build the foundation for that communication with clarifying content. Whether composing reports, synthesizing data, creating manuals, or establishing cybersecurity policy, these writers convert strategy into actionable steps.
Cybersecurity technical writers go by a few different names, such as information security technical writer, security technical writer, documentation specialists, or just “technical writer.” Regardless of the title, your organization needs a technical writer that can effectively promote your cybersecurity strategy among employees and clients.
In this guide, we’ll discuss what a cybersecurity technical writer does, as well as what to look for in a technical writer. As you assess your cybersecurity documentation needs, consider your organization’s objectives and seek to align your recruiting efforts with those objectives.
What Does a Cybersecurity Technical Writer Do?
A cybersecurity technical writer, or information security technical writer, creates written content for an organization in partial fulfillment of a comprehensive cybersecurity strategy.
Ideally, a technical writer participates in the planning and proofreading of content, rather than just composing initial drafts. To do their job correctly, they need to understand the organization’s needs and its cybersecurity goals. Technical writers must comprehend what they will be writing about and properly expound on topics so that others can understand.
Because audit reports, manuals, and other technical documentation tend to be dry and complex, cybersecurity technical writers must have a strong command of the native language. Most have at least a bachelor’s degree, while others continue their education into specific fields relevant to their work.
How Much Does a Cybersecurity Technical Writer Cost?
The technical writing industry is growing fast. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that demand for technical writers will grow by 8% over the next several years.
While a median salary for technical writers in the United States is just over $70,000 a year, many organizations hire freelancers. Freelance cybersecurity technical writers usually cost between $20-40 an hour. When vetting writers for your organization, you should request samples of their work to ensure that they are a good fit.
6 Essential Qualifications that Make a Great Cybersecurity Technical Writer
Finding a good technical writer for any industry can be challenging. If you’re working with a virtual CISO provider, you can usually depend upon them to vet a team of writers on your behalf.
But if you want to vet your own security technical writer, here are six qualities to look for during the hiring process.
Familiarity with Various Technical Writing Styles and Documentation
Cybersecurity technical writers must possess the kind of mental agility that allows them to write to diverse audiences. Each documentation piece maintains a specific purpose for a specific audience.
For example, organizations call upon these writers to express security policy, legal code, audit journaling, penetration test results, and business plans so readers can understand. Poor style in any format creates confusion for readers, interrupts project success, and raises an organization’s legal liability.
On some projects writers will compose content for executives and internal planning. At other times, they will guide employees and clients on company policy. Technical writers retain subject matter expertise while conveying complex information in digestible ways.
High Attention to Detail
Synthesizing complex information is not for the faint of heart. Experienced cybersecurity technical writers pay careful attention to detail. This attention to detail can spot high-level trends and significant anomalies.
Weighing various inputs – company directives, auditing results, audience members capacity to comprehend, etc. – technical writers understand that nuance is everything. They often labor over their grammar and word choices to ensure that documentation meets organizational objectives.
That said, technical writers are productive and efficient. They often work quickly and embrace the tedium that naturally accompanies refined instructions, impeccable formatting, and technical terminology.
Ability to Comprehend Technical Concepts
Not everyone can grasp complex ideas, particularly as they relate to information technology and cybersecurity. Information security technical writers possess the ability to pick up on key concepts, supporting evidence, and analytics information.
Great technical writers learn industry terms, understand causal relationships, and can distinguish relevant from irrelevant data. Additionally, they know how to process research from various communication mediums, to include written and verbal sources.
Lastly, technical writers have a strong logical flow to their thinking and writing. They can anticipate where most people may have difficulty understanding concepts and write with reader comprehension in mind. Technical writers can effectively pass information because they’ve first grasped the information for themselves.
These writers maintain their ability to comprehend even as the information grows more technical and convoluted. They may pend extra time researching challenging concepts to understand and communicate more effectively. As such, the work they invest in comprehension uniquely qualifies them to express these ideas better through company cybersecurity documentation.
Precision and Conciseness
Cybersecurity technical writers know that readers don’t need to understand all the background information for user manuals, business plans, policy, etc. In most cases company documentation exists to maintain compliance standards and effectively inform readers.
After understanding an extensive report, technical writers can summarize volumes of information into just a few sentences. When it becomes necessary to “go deeper” on a particular concept, these writers tread carefully, including all relevant information.
Often, documentation length is a critical consideration. Experienced technical writers work hard not to let page and word counts get out of hand. They frequently embrace the mantra, “Less is more.”
Having a strong command of the native language allows technical writers to choose their words carefully. If there is too much industry jargon, the average reader will feel confused and overwhelmed. But if there are too few industry-specific terms, the documentation may become too general when greater specificity is required. These writers find a balance and exercise great care to define their terms within their writing style.
Can Alternate Between Planning and Composition, Composition and Analysis
Being a great security technical writer requires more than putting words on a page. Technical writers seek to fully understand a topic and its purpose before attempting a draft. As such, they are collaborative, curious, and dependable.
If an organization does not have its own editorial process, experienced technical writers introduce their own to ensure effective proofreading and project deadline fulfillment. When their employer outsources cybersecurity solutions, technical writers liaison with the contracting agency.
One often-overlooked task for technical writers is quality assurance. They must examine existing documentation (including their own) and look for opportunities to improve. Cybersecurity technical writers frequently play an active role in project planning before they begin composing documentation. They recommend project due dates, recognize their role in a larger vision, and meet their milestones.
Depending upon their role within a cybersecurity team, technical writers maintain company documentation by tracking new information as it arises. That often means engaging product developers, customer service personnel, and industry changes.
Loves to Learn
It is not uncommon for technical writers to have to write on concepts for which there is little existing content. As a result, they “blaze a trail” on behalf of their organization to meet cybersecurity objectives.
Security technical writers enjoy learning new things, including testing new products, researching topics, and interviewing subject matter experts. Afterward, they compose documentation per company directives and primary-source research.
When selecting your technical writing team, you should feel confident that members can still function even when you cannot give them as much direction as they’d prefer. Most experienced technical writers enjoy the challenge of “figuring things out” and producing truly unique content.
Investing in a quality information security technical writer is essential to your cybersecurity strategy. By selecting your writer(s) carefully, you will empower everyone in your organization to better understand cyber-risks, objectives, policies, best practices, and more.
RSI Security is a full cybersecurity agency complete with virtual CISO services and a team of cybersecurity technical writers. We offer auditing, research, proofreading, and documentation deliverables, ensuring that your organization is both third-party compliant and prepared for cyber-threats.