Technical writing is writing done for the purpose of educating, informing or directing someone on how to do something. Technical writing is significantly different than other types of writing, like narrative writing, because technical writing is intended to impart some specific skill or ability. Technical writing is often very detail-oriented and involves writing within fields where advanced knowledge is required.
When given technical writing assignments, you must approach them a certain way. Follow our breakdown of types of technical writing and their examples to learn whether this is the profession for you.
Sample Technical Writing Assignment
The following was written in response to this assignment: “Write an excerpt from an owner’s manual showing three different aspects of the same product.”
The Retlas DM automatic dice roller has three modes of operation.
- Manual operation: Input all desired dice at the top of the cylindrical tower. Dice will exit at table level through the aperture. Note that the Retlas DM does not require electrical power for manual operation.
- Digital operation: When plugged in, the Retlas DM will show the time on a digital readout above the table-level aperture. Press the button between the aperture and digital readout, which should begin blinking. Input all desired dice, then use the buttons to set the time on the digital readout. Retlas DM will randomize the dice for the set time, then release them through the aperture.
- Bluetooth operation: The Retlas app, available on Android and iPhone, allows Retlas DM owners to set dice-rolling time on their mobile device. Simply pair your device with your Retlas DM, input the desired length of time, then press “Start” on the Retlas app.
Forms of Technical Writing
Technical writing assignments normally take one of three forms:
- End user documentation
- Traditional technical writing
- Technological marketing communications
End User Documentation
End user documentation provides instructions for the end user of a given product. These instructions need to be easily understood by a non-technical reader, but still require technical expertise. Examples include:
- Writing a manual that accompanies a cell phone
- Writing a user manual teaching home computer users how to set up a basic home networking system
- Writing a how-to guide for using laptops
Traditional Technical Writing
Traditional technical writing is performed by people with technical expertise, for people with the same technical expertise. For instance:
- Writing an analysis of a legal case for other lawyers
- Writing a summary of a series of medical experiments to be published in a journal of medicine
- Writing an industry article for a trade publication
Technological Marketing Communications
Sometimes a technical writer needs to contribute to the marketing materials for a product. In that situation, the writer needs to communicate their expertise in more user-friendly language to help the prospective buyer understand and take an interest in the product.
- Writing a sales pitch to a new potential client about a new type of computer hardware or software
- Writing informative articles for the web to show businesses that using a particular IT consulting service can save them money
- Writing an in-depth case study on how the product benefitted a specific company
Types of Technical Writing Assignments
Technical writing is used in a wide variety of fields, such as engineering, computer hardware and software, chemistry, and biotechnology. You can also find everyday examples of technical writing in owner's manuals, employee handbooks, and web articles.
Some examples of technical writing assignments include:
- Training manuals designed to inform new employees about their role
- Operations guides for particular tools and products
- Promotional brochures encouraging employees and customers to take advantage of a company’s offers
- Online articles that may be informative or persuasive but require a degree of technical expertise
A technical writer may be assigned to compile information for a company or job training manual. In the manual, the writer may be required to outline:
- General information, such as an employer’s locations and operating hours
- Company policies, such as paid leave and timekeeping policy
- Standard operating procedures, such as the formatting and editing of a request for proposal (RFP)
- Duties required to be fulfilled by a given position, which will be unique to the position in question
Training manuals and other company documents can usually be categorized as end-user documentation.
When a writer is asked to write an operations guide, the assignee expects them to have a working knowledge of the topic area. It is important to keep in mind that the people who will be using the guide will likely be beginners. Therefore, they need detailed and concise instructions. Operations guides could refer to any of the following types of guides:
- Assembly instructions for putting a given product together
- Installation guides for integrating a product into compatible systems
- Owner's manuals covering multiple topics for a product’s new owner
- Computer software guides addressing issues both specific to the program and relevant to its interaction with other systems
- Engineering guides that address specific engineering issues regarding a product
Operations guides typically fall under the traditional technical writing category, but in some cases, they could also be considered end-user documentation.
A technical writer who writes promotional brochures and other technological marketing pieces will be required to not only inform a potential customer of the offer being made, but to entice them to want to buy it through the use of key phrases. This may involve marketing emails, sales letters, and product leaflets, among other types of promotional materials.
Another type of technical writing is found in online articles. There is a wealth of information available on the Internet. Millions of people browse search engines and read through articles they find for instructions and guides, plus to understand different things.
Technical writing, in this case, could vary from articles on how to assemble a crib to articles with detailed medical advice or historical information. This area of technical writing can fall into any of the three categories of technical writing described above.
Finding Technical Writing Work
As you can see, there are many different types of technical writing assignments. If you are interested in becoming a technical writer, you should consider working on both your writing skills and your specific industry knowledge to find the best possible opportunities.
One excellent way to increase your chances of finding technical writing work is by crafting the perfect resume and cover letter. With our help and a little luck, you’ll find just the right position for you.