Technical writing refers to a type of writing where the author outlines the details and operations of administrative, technical, mechanical, or scientific systems. The main goal of technical writing is to educate, direct, and give others the ability to use a certain system.
Types of Technical Writing
There are three main types of technical writing:
- End-user documentation: This type of writing includes documents where the writer explains a topic to a novice so that they can understand technical terms and apply them in a real-life situation.
- Traditional technical writing: This is writing that is geared to an audience already at least somewhat familiar with a technical field such as engineering or politics.
- Technological marketing communications: This is writing used in promotional marketing such as fliers and promotional brochures that would entice a person to purchase a certain product or service.
Examples of technical writing can be found in each of these different types of technical writing.
Uses for Technical Writing
Examples of end-user documentation might include:
- "Blackberry for Dummies" - that teaches you how to use your new cellular phone and that is written in order to cater to someone who has never before used a cell phone or who is not a cell phone expert
- A manual that comes with a computer
- A manual that comes with a video game system, such as the PS3 users guide
Traditional Technical Writing
Examples of traditional technical writing might include:
- A whitepaper published in an engineering journal about a new system that has been devised
- An article published in a law review that caters to lawyers
- An article in a medical journal summarizing an experiment that has been conducted and written to a medical audience. For example, articles published in the New England Journal of Medicine would fall into this category
Technical Marketing Communication
These might include:
- A promotional ad outlining why you would want to purchase a new computer and explaining the features of that computer
- A promotional ad explaining why you would want to purchase a new cell phone, outlining the phone's features
- A promotional ad explaining why you would want to purchase a new mp3 player and outlining the phone's features, such as an ad for the Creative Zen Mozaic Mp3 player
Successful Technical Writing
When carrying out a technical writing assignment, you must remember to follow what is known as the three ‘Cs’ and ask yourself the following questions:
- Is it clear?
- Is it concise?
- Is it complete?
Because technical writing is so often aimed towards those who may be unfamiliar with technical jargon and terminology, it is important that a technical writer uses clear and unambiguous language in their assigned piece.
- If the writing is too full of technical language, the message may not come across as intended.
- If the information being written about is provided in a convoluted and round-about way, the message is likely to be lost entirely. Straight forward and to the point is always best.
If a technical writer’s information is incomplete, it inhibits the audience’s understanding of the topic and can, in some cases such as instruction and safety manuals, prove dangerous.
Above all, technical writing needs to be very clear and concise to be successful.