Anyone who has ever assembled a bookshelf, tried to operate a DVD player, or read an owner’s manual has encountered technical writing. This type of writing aims to provide technical, business, or educational information in a way that helps readers understand a subject. It is stylistically different from creative writing and is often primarily informative. There are full-time and freelance opportunities in this field, and employers frequently require training in writing.
Forms of Technical Writing
Technical writing is among the most widely read kinds of written communication, likely surpassed only by advertising and some popular literature. "How to" guides, for example, are a common and popular form of this writing. Examples of these guides include a recipe for a particular dish or the directions for using a mobile phone.
This kind of writing, intended for the general public, is only one aspect of this field. Businesses use it extensively to communicate information to management, employees and other companies. Such writing in business can include training manuals, employee guidelines or handbooks, and internal explanations of new products or services.
Educational textbooks are also considered a form of technical writing. A photography textbook, for example, informs the reader about how to optimize lighting when photographing a subject and how to use a camera for special effects. Most textbooks communicate information through a technical style with the primary purpose of instruction and education.
Differences Between Technical and Other Writing Formats
Whether information on technology, assembly instructions, or an owner’s manual, technical writing aims to provide a message that is clear, concise, and helpful to readers. Although very different from creative writing such as fiction and poetry, a technical writer must have a certain degree of creativity. Technical pieces of writing can become dull, so a good writer comes up with ways to engage the intended audience to help readers understand the information. This can be achieved through vivid examples of concepts, and by drawing connections between technical and creative ideas.
Technical writing can be more difficult than some other forms of writing, because it must be clear and to the point. Good writing of this type should not leave any room for interpretation and must anticipate and answer any questions or problems a reader may have. Readers often see this in "frequently asked questions" and "troubleshooting" sections of a technical work.
Careers for Technical Writers
The demand for technical writers is high, which makes a career in technical writing a great option for people with strong organizational, grammar, and written communication skills. Technical writing can offer a good salary for both freelancers and onsite employees. There are many training programs available for people who wish to enter this field, and a degree in language or writing can help prepare someone for this career. Employers range from manufacturers that need instruction manuals written, to food magazines looking for writers to expand upon the basic outline of a recipe.