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What Are the Different Types of Technical Writing?

Technical writing encompasses a range of styles, each serving a specific purpose. From user manuals to scientific papers, it translates complex information into accessible language. Instructional guides help users navigate products, while reports and proposals inform decision-making. Reflect on how clear communication in technology affects your daily life. What type of technical document have you interacted with recently?
Elizabeth West
Elizabeth West

Technical writing delivers instructional and explanatory material in clear, readable prose. Writers may specialize in several different fields, including medicine, legal, science, and business. They may produce end user manuals, which are documents aimed at a specific and traditional technical audience, such as engineering specifications, or marketing brochures as well as white papers. The writer usually has knowledge of the subject area or may employ experts in the field to provide information.

Most technical writers have expertise in one area, and specialize in that. Technical and scientific writing takes great knowledge of the subject and is usually aimed at people who also understand it, as in a scientific process or an engineering problem. Technical writing is not like writing literature because it doesn’t require broad appeal but instead is aimed at a specific audience. It also does not use figurative language, but is instead straightforward and informative.

Consumers rely on clear technical writing when assembling a product for the home.
Consumers rely on clear technical writing when assembling a product for the home.

In the legal, medical, and education fields, technical writing must be accurate. Medical documents must use proper terminology and be clearly understood by the reader. In the health insurance field, this is a growing concern because policies need to be easy for the average person to grasp. Education has its own requirements, and people employed to do technical writing for this field will usually have some experience as teachers or administrators, and may design classroom or testing materials and write textbooks.

Most technical writers have expertise in one area, and specialize in that.
Most technical writers have expertise in one area, and specialize in that.

Business technical writers produce assembly instructions and other end user documents, catalogs, web content, and marketing materials for a specific company. Safety procedurals and employee manuals dictate procedures for emergency situations and such things as dress codes, conduct, and employee benefits. Writers who have graphic skills can also put together presentation materials and slideshows for meetings and conferences.

A technical writer may be responsible for writing operation manuals.
A technical writer may be responsible for writing operation manuals.

Another document technical writers do for businesses is white papers. These are reports that educate readers and function as marketing tools. For example, they may present an informative look at a problem that can be solved by the company’s product. They tend to be less straightforward and longer than a brochure or sell sheet. Writers who aren’t necessarily well-versed in the product or topic can interview experts for in-depth information.

Writers who wish to seek a career in this field may major in English and creative writing while at university, but expertise in another field is useful. Science and computer majors, for example, can market their services in creating user documents. Any special knowledge can be put to use in developing technical material, as well as good self-marketing and software skills. A well-crafted resumé and samples of any technical writing will help obtain assignments.

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Discussion Comments

summing

I would like to take a technical writing course to try and improve my skills. I have had a few jobs but I have been turned down from many others because of lack of experience and, frankly, poor quality writing.

Where are these kinds of courses offered? I checked at both the local university and the local community college. I am thinking of putting up an add asking if someone would be willing to tutor me. Do you think that would work?

truman12
I actually do freelance technical writing and translating. I speak German fluently and I translate service manuals and other technical documents form German into English.

It is not an easy job and there is a steep learning curve. Even if you know German, you are often unfamiliar with a lot of the highly technical and scientific terms. I had to give myself a crash course when I first started getting work and I still keep a technical German dictionary on my desk.

gravois

I work as a freelance writer and there is a hot debate in the community about freelance technical writing. There is a lot of this work available and it tends to pay better than other jobs.

But lots of writers view this work as a kind of trap. You get a gig, you get used to the money, and before you know it you have spent three years writing archaic descriptions for obscure computer programs and you have no flare for writing any more. There is the fear (not all of in unfounded) that technical writing dulls your ability to write. For that reason alone I have avoided it.

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    • Consumers rely on clear technical writing when assembling a product for the home.
      By: Stokaji
      Consumers rely on clear technical writing when assembling a product for the home.
    • Most technical writers have expertise in one area, and specialize in that.
      By: Gandolfo Cannatella
      Most technical writers have expertise in one area, and specialize in that.
    • A technical writer may be responsible for writing operation manuals.
      By: KostaKostov
      A technical writer may be responsible for writing operation manuals.