If you’ve ever browsed through an instruction manual or read a contract before signing it, you may be familiar with technical writing. But what is technical writing exactly? When people buy new electronics or other products, they need to know to use them and how they work. That’s where this type of writing comes in. Technical writing involves communicating complex information in a simpler way to help people complete a task or goal. Here we’ll define technical writing, describe some examples, discuss industries you can work in as a technical writer, and identify the skills you need to be successful.
What does technical writing mean?
Technical writing has been defined as “the practice of documenting processes, such as software manuals or instructional materials.” But with today’s vast number and types of products and services that people use at home and at work, that definition has changed.
However, it’s no longer limited to lengthy user manuals. So what is technical writing today? Well, any time specialized information is conveyed in writing is, by definition, technical writing. Therefore, it includes any documentation of complex comprehensive processes.
Technical writing is all about condense complex specialized information into useful, easy-to-understand language. It involves writing easily understandable content about products and services. As a result, it occurs in many fields. Some examples are high-tech manufacturing, engineering, biotechnology, energy, aerospace, finance, and information technology.
Examples of technical writing
You can write about many different topics as long as you are familiar with the industry and know how to simplify the in-depth contents that are involved. Technical writing takes place in a variety of industries. The most prevalent types are medical and scientific papers, user manuals and assistance guides, technical books and guides, assembly manuals, and technical reviews and reports. Here are a few examples of technical writing.
Instruction manuals come with a variety of products such as consumer electronics, kitchen appliances, and more. A user manual is a complete guide on how to use, maintain, and clean the product.
Case studies and white papers
These are tools that organizations use to get more business and leads by demonstrating their expertise. Case studies provide more information on a specific instance or project, while white papers address industry-specific problems, challenges, and issues.
Standard operating procedures (SOP)
Standard operating procedures (SOP) are complete processes for various tasks to ensure the organization runs smoothly. These procedures help people within the organization to work uniformly. This maintains the quality of the organization and makes the processes more efficient, effective, and cheaper.
Organizations and agencies use press releases to share news and make announcements. Press releases emphasize why the information is important to the general public. They precede key information that is released in a press conference, news release, or on social media.
Business plans help new companies develop a vision and get funding. They often include an executive summary, product and service descriptions, members of the team, an analysis of competitors and the market, the organizational structure, schedules, risks and opportunities, and financial planning.
Annual reports offer a company a way to be transparent with its stakeholders. They include yearly updates on the company’s performance and other financial information.
Company documents include various technical information depending on their use. Some examples of company documents include internal policies, orientation manuals, and job descriptions.
Application Programming Interface (API) documentation
Application Programming Interface (API) connects two different applications and allows them to talk to each other. API documentation includes reference documents that explain how to use the API. It helps clients understand how the API works and how to effectively implement it.
Industries for technical writers
Since technical writing is such a broad practice, the functions vary between industries. Because technical writing focuses on explaining complex information in a simpler manner, it’s important that you have a clear understanding of the industry in which you want to work before you get a technical writing job. Here are a few industries that employ technical writers.
Computers and information technology
The information technology sector has a high demand for technical writers. Within the computer industry, there are various opportunities to use technical writing skills. Technical writing benefits the development of software, hardware, and cyber security.
Science, engineering, and healthcare
The healthcare industry needs technical writers to explain high-level content to the masses. Research facilities, healthcare software developers, and hospitals need to share their achievements and technical writers are equipped to do just that.
Instructional design and education
Instructional designers create course materials for trainers. They need to break down complex procedures into smaller steps. Technical writing has the same requirements.
Business, finance, and project management
Technical writers are well-qualified to distribute complex information to teams of people. Their skills allow them to accurately portray goals, instructions, and ideas in a business environment.
There are a lot of different paths you can take to become a technical writer within the government. For example, the government uses writers for media relations and policy analysis.
Technical writing skills
Technical writing involves a unique skill set. A good writer should be able to write easily and clearly. They should be able to use technology and have patience in problem-solving and troubleshooting. They should also be experts in the subject matter about which they are writing or be able to interact easily with subject matter experts.
In order to improve your technical writing skills, focus on writing, research, communication skills, understanding your audience, practical skills, and digital resources.
To be a good technical writer, you need solid writing skills since you’ll have to refine complicated information into simple, easy-to-read content. In addition to being a skilled writer, you’ll also need to implement the correct style, tone, and format in each document you write.
Research is key in technical writing. To be a skilled technical writer, you’ve got to be able to collect data, organize the information, and share it with others. Use a variety of research methods including online searches, polls, and performing interviews.
Technical writing involves communicating complex, detailed information clearly and concisely. You’ll also most likely work with different groups of people so you must be able to understand each other and convey information efficiently to work together effectively.
You’ve got to understand the practical aspects of the topic about which you are writing. If you don’t understand what you’re writing about, the writing process will be practically impossible. Once you understand the how, when, and why of your topic, you can create a document that consumers will easily read and understand.
Understand your audience
The main point of technical writing is to explain information to a specific audience. The first step is to figure out what your target audience wants to know and what they need to know. Then you can tailor your content accordingly.
In addition to writing about a topic, you may also need to create images or other visuals to help readers process the information they’re reading. Therefore, you should be comfortable with using digital resources such as data capturing tools and authoring tools.
Content creation today
As technology advances, the demand for technical writing continues to grow. Continue to hone your skills and learn new ones to keep delivering high-quality content to your readers.
For more help on creating content for your business, take a look at SEO Design Chicago’s content creation strategy training course.
- What does technical writing involve?
- Why is technical writing important?
- What types of technical writing are there?
- Where can I get a technical writing job?
- How can I improve my technical writing skills?