What Is Technical Writing? Definition, Examples and Steps?

Technical writing is a form of writing that converts complex ideas of professionals to simple messages for consumers. While there are several examples of technical writing, there are styles that make you stand out as an exceptional writer.

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When scientists, engineers and inventors try to communicate their complex calculations and theories to regular people; how do they sound? Gibberish right? That’s what happens when they don’t communicate using technical writing. Imagine it as a translator for professionals to convey complex topics to their consumers who are less experienced. 

You may not know this but all your life, since you received a present containing a manual, you’ve interacted with technical writing. That’s how much it has influenced you.

Sadly, in the world of writing, technical writing gets the least praise. It doesn’t get the flashy headlines or the red carpet treatment as other forms of writing do. However, it is so important that modern communication would be crippled without it. 

Technical writing plays a crucial role in bridging the gap between complex information and everyday understanding. 

What is Technical Writing?

Technical writing is a writing style that involves translating intricate concepts into clear, concise, and user-friendly content. It’s the art of making rocket science accessible to those who don’t have a PhD in astrophysics. The goal is to make these ideas comprehensible by those who need it to carry out specific tasks.

Technical writing is a subcategory of technical communication, another subcategory of business communication. Just because it is called technical writing, does not limit it to only writing. It takes other content formats such as videos, FAQs, QnAs, user manuals, infographics, reports etc.

Technical writing aims to achieve the following goals;

  • Explaining a process in simple terms.
  • Discussing research.
  • Analysis and predictions.

It’s important to know that there is no universally accepted style for technical writing. The format, voice, organization and style is dependent on the writer and the consumer (target audience).

Examples of Technical Writing

There are many examples of technical writing, since it comes in various formats. They include;

User manuals

Software documentation

Whitepapers

Online help guide

Case studies

Business plan/proposal

Reports.

Product descriptions

Product specifications

Standard Operating Procedures (SOP)

1. User Manuals: These are the hefty booklets accompanying your new gadget like a trusted sidekick. They’re more than just assembly instructions; they’re the secret decoder rings for your microwave, printer, and smart thermostat. Remember that time you tried to set up your Wi-Fi router without the manual? Exactly. That’s how important a user manual can be.

2. Software Documentation: Ever encountered an error message that made you question very angry? Messages such as “404 Not Found” and “Fatal Exception Error 0x80004005” can be annoying when trying to access important sites.

Software documentation simplifies these cryptic codes and provides context, using simpler texts like “Oops, something broke. Try turning it off and on again.” They create FAQs, troubleshooting guides, and release notes that make the software interface feel less mysterious.

3. Whitepapers: Think of whitepapers as scholarly articles without footnotes. Experts use it to show their knowledge when discussing topics like quantum computing, blockchain and AI ethics in order to provide answers or solutions to questions. Reading a whitepaper is like attending a TED Talk in text form minus the applause breaks.

4. Online Help Guides: Online Help Guides serve as user-friendly companions for understanding and utilizing products or services effectively. These guides are hosted online, accessible anytime and anywhere.

When your software misbehaves, technical writers use online help guides to simplify the process and offer solutions. They include step-by-step instructions, FAQs, troubleshooting tips, and other helpful nuggets.

5. Case Studies: Case studies are real-world detailed documents of an event, project or research. They also showcase how a product or service solved a specific problem for a customer or an organization. They also demonstrate the practical application of a product or service, building credibility and trust.

6. Business Plans/Proposals: Business plans are comprehensive documents outlining a company’s goals, strategies, and financial projections. The goal is to guide the business’s growth and attract investors or lenders. Business proposals are persuasive documents submitted to potential clients or partners, to win contracts, secure funding or propose collaboration.

7. Reports: These are formal documents presenting data, analysis and findings. Reports are used to inform decision-makers, track progress, or evaluate performance. Types of reports include; research reports, financial reports, project reports

8. Product Specifications: These are technical documents specifying a product’s design, dimensions, materials, and performance criteria, aimed to guide manufacturing, quality control, and purchasing decisions.

9. Standard Operating Procedures (SOP): SOPs are step-by-step instructions for performing routine tasks or processes, to ensure consistency, safety, and efficiency.

Steps in Technical Writing

Source

Technical writing may seem vague or impossible to handle but that’s not true. All you need to do is take a deep breath and follow these easy steps that you can apply anytime, anywhere;

Research

Audience analysis

Planning

Writing

Editing

Review and Testing

Visuals

Accessibility

Empathy 

1. Research: Everyone does research, so how hard can it be? However, technical writers dive deeper in order to get quality information and resources for their writing. They interview experts, dissect manuals, and consult volumes of books. Sounds like work right? It’s for the greater good.

2. Audience Analysis: Since every writing is targeted to a particular audience, audience analysis is a very critical step in technical writing. It’s important to ask the questions: Who’s reading this? What do they need? What do they do?

With detailed audience analysis, technical writers can tailor content accordingly to meet the needs of their audience.

3. Planning: Outlining is important for any technical writing. Technical writers organize thoughts from start to finish in order to have a detailed outline of what should and should not be there.

4. Writing: Here’s where the magic happens. Technical writers craft sentences that are simple, relatable and as precise as a laser-guided missile.  Every word is carefully thought out and geared towards making consumers have a comprehensive and easy understanding of the subject matter.

5. Editing: Technical writers edit like neurosurgeons. Every word matters and is expected to convey the right information. There are no rooms for bogus statements or overemphasis. Only what is necessary is retained.

6. Review and Testing: Every draft must undergo scrutiny from experts, to ensure the information is up-to-date and according to latest developments or innovations. It’s like submitting your thesis to a panel of Nobel laureates. If approved, it’s gold. If not, back to the keyboard.

7. Visuals: This often doesn’t get out but technical writers love diagrams, flowcharts, and infographics. Visuals are very helpful when discussing a subject because they provide more information than texts. Visuals make technical writing comprehensible and consumer-friendly.

8. Accessibility: It’s not just about words; it’s about making information universally accessible. Ensuring that technical documentation is accessible to all individuals, regardless of their abilities, is crucial for promoting inclusivity and equal access to information. 

9. Empathy: Inasmuch as technical documentation is professional, it should reach out to consumers. Technical writers consider users’ frustration, confusion, and occasional existential crises. While writing, remember that people are going to read it. Therefore, technical writing should meet their pain points and solve their problems.

FAQs

1. Q: What is technical writing?

A: Technical writing is the practice of conveying complex information in a clear, concise, and user-friendly manner. It serves as a bridge between experts and non-experts, ensuring that instructions, explanations, and documentation are accessible.

2. Q: Why are user manuals considered technical writing?

A: User manuals provide essential instructions for using products or services. They guide users through setup, operation, troubleshooting, and maintenance. Without well-written manuals, users would struggle to understand how to interact with a product effectively.

3. Q: What are whitepapers, and why are they important?

A: Whitepapers are authoritative documents that delve into specific topics, often related to technology, business, or research. They are important because they provide in-depth analysis, insights, and recommendations. Businesses and experts use whitepapers to share knowledge, influence decisions, and establish credibility.

Final Thoughts

Technical writing isn’t just about words; it’s about empowering users and making life easier for them. It’s the art of turning “404 Not Found” into “Here’s how to troubleshoot.” Wondering if you should be a technical writer, take the bold step and transform the lives of people who depend on technical writing to solve daily problems.

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