How often have you picked up an instruction manual of some sort and found that you really could not understand the message or follow the instructions after reading it? The document did not make sense and did not help you at all. This is an example of technical writing that did not achieve the objective of turning a complex subject into something the average person understands.
We all have had this experience at one time or another. A good technical writer can take a complex subject or set of instructions and turn it into everyday language that we all understand. Technical writing has been around for centuries; however, recently, it is becoming recognized as a highly valuable skill for anyone writing instructions for consumers, in technology-related businesses, and many others. Many people are finding full-time work that is rewarding and pays well;
What is Technical Writing?
Technical writing has become a critical skill set that many companies recognize they require for their products to achieve success in the marketplace. Translating engineering and scientific jargon into readable information that is easily understood by operations personnel and the average person is both challenging and interesting work. It is also highly valued.
Technical writers must be able to understand the technology or complex instructions. They may need to learn about new technologies and processes before turning that information into easily understood instructions. This leads to lifelong learning situations for many writers.
They also have to understand their audience and write accordingly for that audience. Operations people in a technology company have a better understanding of technology than the average person. The style of writing and the information discussed must be written for these two distinct audiences.
A broad definition defined by the Society of Technical Communication as “any form of communication that shows one or more of the following qualities:
- Communicating about technical or specialized topics, such as computer applications, medical procedures, or environmental regulations.
- Communicating by using technology, such as web pages, help files, or social media sites.
- Providing instructions about how to do something, regardless of how technical the task is or even if technology is used to create or distribute that communication.”
Technical writing is becoming more common as our society embraces technology more and more. This style of writing must also be professional, grammatically correct without spelling mistakes, and avoid jargon or acronyms as much as possible.
Technical Writing Examples & Templates
How Technical Writing Examples Can Help You?
As a technical writer, one of your main tasks is to understand the product, learn how to use it, and interpret the instructions provided to you by the developer, manufacturer, or creator. Working on a variety of projects provides a lifelong learning opportunity for many writers who enjoy this type of work. It can be very rewarding.
Anytime a consumer purchases a product of some kind, some instructions come with it, covering installation procedures and user manuals to help you know how to use the product and gain the most out of it. These are technical documents written by a technical writer. They cover everything from thick car manuals to one-page instructions on how to connect your coffee maker. Consumers find these documents very helpful every day they purchase a product.
Technical writing is a growing industry due to increases in scientific areas and technical products. However, technical writing is not limited to technology. Writers are needed in academia, broadcasting, government, energy, transportation, financial services, telecommunications, safety, and health, security, and more areas are becoming available every month.
The Purpose of Technical Writing
The purpose of technical writing is to take complex information written in technical or industry jargon and turn that into concise, clear information that can be understood and utilized by the reader. The document might explain how something works, how to assemble something, how to use something, or how to maintain an item.
The information should be easy to comprehend by individuals not familiar with the product and perhaps folks who have no understanding of how to use a particular product, e.g., a computer. There are different styles of technical writing – informative, detailed instructions, etc. consumers may use the information for many different purposes, including making decisions about financial products, for example.
Essential Characteristics of Technical Writing
While there are different types of technical writing, the main objective is to take complex information and translate it into an informative narrative that explains the topic to a variety of people in the terminology they understand.
Some of the characteristics of technical writing include:
- Clear and Concise
- Solid Structure
- Detailed and Informative
Direct – avoid jargon, acronyms and avoid flowery or eloquent writing styles. If you must use acronyms, always spell them out in long form the first time you use the acronym in each section of the document. Include an acronym list somewhere in the document.
Clear and Concise – stay focused on the subject matter, use short sentences that convey clear instructions or details.
Solid Structure – your document should easily flow naturally from one topic to the next. As the reader reads the document, information should be presented in a logical manner that makes sense to the reader. Use proper grammar and check for spelling mistakes.
Detailed and Informative – do not leave out details or make assumptions about the reader’s understanding of the topic. Provide all of the details someone who has no knowledge of the subject will need to understand the topic.
When to Use Technical Writing?
Technical writing is used in many different fields and situations. It is also essential that the correct type of technical document be used to have the desired outcome. As a writer, you may have to make the decision, or your client may indicate what type of document and when they want to use it. The following area few examples of when technically written documents are used:
- Technical reports
- Technical manuals
- Technical proposals
- Guides and handbooks
- Installation guides
- Operating procedures
Technical reports – to provide analysis, conclusions, recommendations with sufficient information for the reader to draw conclusions and make decisions.
Technical manuals – to provide instructions on how to use a program, a device, or a product
Emails – used to share company-wide instructions or communications
Technical proposals – describe a project, including planning activities, methods and procedures, anticipated results and benefits, and may also include a budget.
Specifications – provide details concerning the structure, materials, design, packaging with sufficient detail that an external company could reconstruct it or produce it for a client.
Guides and handbooks – for users to follow to assemble or use a product
Installation guides – provide instructions for end-users to install a product in their home, office, or manufacturing plant
Operating procedures – provides step by step instructions to complete routine operations to maintain consistency and quality
Warranty – provides warranty description information for the product, labor, shipping, etc.
How to Become a Technical Writer?
While there are no current degrees offered for technical writers, practical writing skills, experience, and building a portfolio of written documents are helpful to win assignments and impress employers.
The most difficult step is to find your first assignment. Practice writing and post these as examples. Use tools to assist with grammar and spelling. Check for plagiarism and assign credit when specific information must be used and quoted. Build your portfolio one document at a time. You may have an interesting area that you are knowledgeable in. Focus on niches that build on your industry knowledge and contacts.
Many technical writers prefer freelance writing to work in-house. There are advantages to both, including hours, work, salary, and security, depending on your mindset and approach to your career. There are a variety of online systems that cater to freelancers.
Consider taking online courses in subject fields that you may be writing about. Read all the time to improve vocabulary and become a subject matter expert in the field you chose for technical writing.
Join professional organizations to network with other writers and contacts who may know about writing projects and opportunities. There are many opportunities available for those people who can write and are continually improving themselves.
Many companies place a great deal of value on employees who are skilled in both the technical field they work in as well as have the ability to write and communicate their fields clearly and concisely.
Technical Writing Processes
Many technical writers will develop their process to follow to help them deliver high-quality, clearly written documents for their clients. However, some of the steps that most successful writers include are:
- Who is the Audience
- Who is the User
- Maximize the User Experience
- Layout the Document Plan
- Check with the Experts
- Prepare the Document
- Write Accurately with an Active Voice
- Avoid Jargon
- Visual Check
- Add Graphics
- Technical Review
- User Review
Preparation – gather information such as the document type, subject, goals, scope, and audience. Gather as much raw material as you can to use as input for the document.
Who is the Audience – define who the end customer is and how they will use the information. You may have to remind your client or at least agree on the answer before starting.
Who is the end-user – is the user new to the topic, or do they have expertise in the subject. They may have their expectations of what should be in the document. What are their concerns, and how much knowledge do they have of the subject?
Maximize the User Experience – consider how the user will use the document and write accordingly. Writing for the end-user can be quite different than writing for the client who has intimate knowledge of the subject.
Layout the Document Plan – map out the document subject areas and flow in a logical manner that flows and contributes to the end goal for your document.
Check with the Experts – use the experts and technical documents as references during the writing process. It is impossible to fully understand everything about a given product or process.
Prepare the Document – begin writing the document while keeping the following points in mind. Write accurately with an active voice, avoid jargon, is the document visually appealing, do a visual check, and add graphics to assist in illustrating concepts and processes.
Review – the document for spelling, grammar, sentence structure, paragraph structure, and does it meet both your client’s aims and objectives as well as the end-user?
Technical Reviews – are always a good idea. Utilize your experts to review the technical aspects of the document.
User Review – if possible, arrange for users to review the document and identify any questions, concerns, or confusion they may have as they work through the document.
There are many frequently asked questions regarding technical writing. We have included a few of the more common questions in the following section.
What are the types of technical writing?
Each type of technical writing has a purpose and a particular type of audience. Regardless of the type, it should be direct, concise, clear, clear writing structure, informative, and detailed. The following list of different types of technical reports are some of the most common types in use:
- Technical reports
- Technical manuals
- Technical proposals
- Guides and handbooks
- Installation guides
- Operating procedures
Is a Manual an Example of Technical Writing?
Manuals are examples of technical writing. Manuals are written for almost every product delivered to consumers as well as to commercial customers. Manuals describe how to assemble a product, how to install a product, how to operate a product, and how to maintain a product. These could be separate technical documents or assembled all in one document.
Technical writers must also consider the audience for the manual. If the manual is for the general consumer without a high degree of technical knowledge, it must be written with simple, clear, step-by-step instructions. On the other hand, if the product is aimed at a highly technical audience, the manual must still provide clear, concise instructions but can include a much higher level of technical information for the reader.
What are the technical writing skills?
Technical writing skills must include the basic writing skills of grammar, spelling, sentence structure, and document structure organization. Many people use various online tools to help them with booth grammar and spelling accuracy.
In addition, writers must be able to take technical information, interpret and understand it and translate this information before writing it down using language the intended readers can use to help them utilize the product. You must be able to take high-level information, process it, and write it in a document that is easily understood.
Writing in a direct manner that is straightforward and clear with a clear structure that is informative and sufficiently detailed for the end-user is the objective of every technical writer.
How is technical writing unique?
Technical writing is unique from many other types of writing. It can be best described by describing what it is. i.e., if it includes one or more of the following elements, it is considered technical writing:
- Communication about technical, specialized processes, applications, or regulations
- Communication using technology – e.g., social media, help files or web pages
- Communicating instructions – how to do something, whether it is technical or process-oriented
Writing that does not fall within these three points is probably not technical writing, although many of the same skills are required, e.g., excellent grammar and spelling are considered the basics.
Technical writing is a burgeoning industry that continues to grow in our technology-driven society. Technical writing skills are in demand within companies as well as for freelancers interested in jobs in many industries.
Many technical writers focus on a specific area of technology to help improve their understanding and ability to translate technical information into clear, concise, and easily readable information for non-technical readers.
Technical writers have opportunities to learn about new technologies and deliver value to their customers, driving increased sales and customer satisfaction. If you cannot understand how to use the technology, customers will not purchase it or recommend it.
Technical writers can get their start by practicing writing documents and posting them online to show their work. They can bid on jobs using online freelance systems to build up a clientele and customer base. They should use available online tools to check grammar and spelling to ensure their work is high quality.
They must also consider the end customer of their writing products. For one set of clients they may need written step-by-step instructions that are acronym-free. While for others with a high level of technical skills, they can prepare documents at a higher level of technical communications.
All technical documents should be written in a direct manner that is straightforward and clear with a clear structure that is informative and sufficiently detailed for the end-user.