Technical Writing as a Career
If you are thinking about starting a new career in writing then you might want to consider being a technical writer. This is a field that has plenty of opportunities today so you have room for growth. This article will explore the characteristics of technical writing and what makes it different from other forms of writing.
What Is Technical Writing?
In the past, technical writing meant the documentation of highly technical processes. The documents produced by technical writers are generally meant for use for internal communication and so are highly technical in language. In other words, they are not meant to be read and understood by the general public.
In recent years, however, the definition and scope of technical writing have expanded. Technical writing now encompasses everything that involves technical details. That includes reports, case studies, product description. In short, anything that requires the writing of technical details and processes can be classified as technical writing.
Characteristics of Technical Writing
If you are serious about giving technical writing a try, you need to learn the most important characteristics of technical writing. Here are some of the most important characteristics of this type of writing.
- Clarity – Technical writing has to be very clear. This can be a problem with some writers who have been trained for creative writing. When you do creative writing, you are given the freedom to explore the language and use figures of speech that can cloud the meaning of what you are trying to say.You cannot have any of that if you do technical writing. Remember, the aim of the documents that you are writing is to instruct the readers and tell them about processes and technical details. You don’t need to make them imagine things. Using creative language for these types of documents is not the best option.
- Simple – Under the old definition of technical writing, this characteristic might not be true but under the new terms, it must be simple for the same reason that it has to maintain its clearness. In the past, the consumers of technical writing are insiders and technicians who are aware of jargon or the insider language used within a field. When manuals and instructions are written for these specialists, it is okay to use jargon. Things are different now where most of the technical documents are consumed by ordinary people. You need to use simple language that can be understood by ordinary readers. You want all of your instructions to be followed by your readers.Again, writing technically is very different from writing creatively which can use creative or fancy language.
- Detailed – Because technical writing is meant to provide information and guidance to its readers, it must be detailed and it should provide a full and clear picture of what it is trying to convey.For example, if you are writing a manual for an appliance, it should have all the details needed by the user to operate it correctly. You cannot leave out details and just let the users figure out things for themselves. You must provide all the relevant information that you can give to the readers in an orderly manner.
- Structure – It’s important for technical writing to be very structured. It must follow the right order for people to understand the full message that it is trying to convey. Perhaps the best example of this would be the writing of a manual for the assembly of furniture.For the user to be able to assemble the furniture correctly, the steps would have to follow the right order. If it does not follow the right structure, the user might have a hard time following the instructions. Other types of technical papers have structures that must be strictly followed too.
- Error-Free – It must be emphasized that technical writing should be free from errors. That’s because grammatical errors and misspellings can be distracting to some readers. Instead of focusing on the main message of the document, they could end up dwelling as to why the document has a certain error.On top of being distracting, errors can also reflect on the credibility of the organization that published a technical paper. In a way, technical writing needs to be free from errors more than creative writing pieces.So, if you are planning on doing technical writing, then you need to master the use of punctuations, correct spelling, and grammar.
- Efficient – This is related to the other characteristics that are on this list. Technical writing must be very efficient. It should only have the needed words and there should be no extra sentence or paragraph that does not add anything to the message.Technical writing aims to deliver information in the clearest and fastest way possible. That’s not going to be achieved by using too many words.
These are the main characteristics of technical writing that you should know about. Based on these, you need to improve on your mastery of language and your ability to convey information through the use of your writing.
The good news is that there are plenty of writing opportunities for those who are just starting with technical writing. Those are the opportunities that will let you practice your writing without the need for too much technical detail and research. However, if you want to pursue technical writing as a career, then you must study the technical details of the field that you are interested in.