what is technical writing

What is Technical Writing?

Technical writing is a genre of writing that is used for technical communication. It is often used in fields that include engineering, chemistry, finance, medical, and any professional. Any written professional communication used within a field can be classified as technical writing.

An Introduction Into Technical Writing

The main use of technical writing is to convey information that is meant to be used in a technical setting. This should be done efficiently. The data handled and that needs to be conveyed by a technical writer is typically complex and it is their task to analyze it and present it in such a form that would be understandable to those with less technical training.

Technical writing covers a great number of writing styles and documents. Here are some of the more common forms of technical documents that are produced by technical writers:

  • Case studies are reports of studies conducted on individuals, groups, objects, or situations which have been done scientifically or academically.
  • A datasheet is a document that summarizes all the information and key features of a product, equipment, a program, or a machine.
  • Descriptions in the technical writing sense, are short documents that explain how a process or a procedure works.
  • Emails and memos are some of the most common technical documents created. Though there are templates that can be followed for emails, they can be used without following any formal template. Memos, on the other hand, will usually follow a specific style within an organization.
  • Instructions are specific guides that help users to run programs or devices. User manuals and troubleshooting checklists are examples of technical instructions.
  • Press releases are external communications that are used by organizations to make announcements. As their name suggests, they are released to members of the press who will be the ones to publish them. Press releases follow a specific pattern. 
  • Proposals are used to describe the purpose of a project, enumerate the tasks needed to accomplish it, and everything else that will be needed. Most projects in a professional setting start with proposals.
  • Resumes are documents that describe the qualifications of a candidate for a job.
  • Specifications are documents that describe and enumerate the structure and the parts of a product or a process.
  • Technical reports can come in different forms. They sum up the performance of a specific project or team enumerating relevant data that can be analyzed by the readers.

Features of Technical Writing

The nature of technical writing makes it different from other forms of writing. Here are some of the features of technical writing:

Clarity

A technical document must be very clear. There is no room for vagueness in a document that is going to be used in a professional setting.

Descriptiveness 

Documents that explain how the equipment will be used or how to follow a process must be very descriptive. It should make it clear to the reader how to perform tasks. The way that a process is described should make it easy for the reader to picture what is required.

Grammatically Correct

This cannot be overemphasized. A technical document must be grammatically correct. A mistake, no matter how minor will reflect badly on the organization. 

Formatting

Technical writing is also heavily reliant on the correct format required for a particular document. For example, a press release must follow the right format for it to be published. Each document has a specific format requirement and that must be followed.

Industries That Use Technical Writing

Back in 2010, there were almost 50,000 technical writers in the United States alone. The number has increased since then. So, which industries are employing technical writers?

The answer is that most industries. Most companies require the services of technical writers but some require them more than others. Here are the industries that hire technical writers:

  • The software industry hires technical writers to work with developers in creating the documentation that is needed for supporting software. They also prepare the descriptions and instructions that are needed for the products.
  • Engineering companies need writers to produce the required documentation that goes with their products or their services. They also prepare specifications of products and proposals for projects.
  • Medical and pharmaceutical companies need the services of technical writers to help them with preparing the large volume of documentation needed for their business.
  • Manufacturing companies hire technical writers for preparing descriptions, specifications, and user manuals.

Companies from all industries can benefit from the services of a technical writer. 

How Technical Writing Differs from Other Forms 

Technical writing is very focused on processes. It must be very detailed and highly organized. Each type of document must follow the pattern and the form of a required document. 

Fluff is normally discouraged in any type of writing but with technical writing, it must be avoided all the time. There is no room for an extra word in a technical document that does nothing for making it clearer to the reader.

Now, here’s where it can be tricky, though technical documents need to be direct they also need to be detailed. That requires detailed technical knowledge and not just an overview of things. With other forms of writing, a cursory knowledge about a subject may be enough but not with technical writing.

How to Become a Technical Writer?

So, what does it take to become a technical writer?

There is no specific path that can be taken to become a technical writer. The main qualification, of course, to become one is having communication and writing skills. Technical knowledge is also very important.

For industries that require a deep technical knowledge of the topics, the technical writers are sometimes professionals within the industry. They might have received some form of training in the field which would make it easier for them to write about the technical subjects.

Sometimes a technical writing job will not require some form of training in the field but it will entail a lot of research. Familiarity is not enough in technical writing, it requires a deep understanding of the topic too.

To get started, one must have some experience in writing content or some other forms before. One should have excellent grammar as well and knowledge of the different formats that might be used. Once hired for a technical writing position, you must become an expert in the company and the industry that you are writing about.

It is also possible to become a freelance technical writer but it might be necessary for you to become an expert in a single niche or industry and focus on that.

Conclusion

Technical writing can be a lucrative field to get into. The average salary of a technical writer is $59,757, which is pretty good. It is relatively easy to get started in this career. Ideally, you need to have a bachelor’s degree in a field that is relevant but that is not always the case since good writing is arguably the most important requirement of all.

Technical writing can be rewarding if you just teach yourself the formats needed for the different documents and if you learn as much technical information as you can.