Technical Writing – Words with Precision

Take an online course and improve your writing skills todayTechnical Writing is an advanced discipline of writing that covers writing about technical subjects such as medical, mechanical and other topics typically of a scientific focus.  The general goal of a technical writer is to convey important information clearly and accurately to the reader about more sophisticated and complex ideas.  If you've ever read an instruction manual for a new appliance, or had recourse to use the help files with a computer application, then you've experienced technical writing in some form.

Though perceived to be written mostly for instruction manuals, technical writing is a broad field and the discipline is required for writing in many areas including, but not limited to;

  • Press releases
  • Business Proposals
  • Product descriptions and specifications
  • White Papers
  • Memorandums
  • And, in some cases, even CV's.

Technical writers are typically tasked with taking a complex idea, device or concept and writing about it in a way that makes the topic at hand easy to understand.  This almost essentially requires that the technical writer themselves are technically literate, as nowadays all serious technical writing must be done by hand and, to convey their information, technical writers are often required to go beyond simply writing text to provide illustrations and diagrams where appropriate.   As such, the ability to use image editing software and document design programs is essential for the professional technical writer.

 Technical Writing Technique

Quality technical writing aims to provide clear information about sometimes complex subjects that is error free.  The obfuscation and pretty word tricks of creative writing have no place here and indeed can be entirely hazardous if, for example, the instructions for operating heavy construction equipment are unclear and difficult to read. 

The key to good technical writing is for the writer to have a clear understanding of the audience they are writing for and to be efficient in what you write.  Writing a business proposal aimed for a group of high powered business executives would use different language than one written for a local community group. The prior knowledge of the two audiences would allow the writer different options for conveying the message clearly.

Requirements to be a Technical Writer

Technical writers require a high competency in any languages they wish to write in.  If they wish to work as translators, then they will require the same high standard in both languages, being able to understand the complex technical terms in one language and interpret them appropriately in the translating language.

As also mentioned, strong IT skills are essential.  Technical writers are usually responsible for putting together their own diagrams and instructional pictures and need the ability to be able to put together the final document, whatever it may be. 

However, contrary to what might be expected, Technical Writers don’t require extensive subject knowledge of the subject they are writing about.  They will often work with subject matter experts who can provide an in-depth explanation, but the task remains for the writer to independently research the topic and find a way to explain the topic to the intended audience. 

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