Technical writing opens the door to a career that simplifies complex topics and provides users with valuable how-to guides. Think of technical writing as copywriting’s most basic, straight-to-the-point version of organizing facts to educate and explain how to do something. To be honest: this type of writing is tough, because writers act as middlemen between developers and consumers.
Technical communications is a growing field, making technical writers high in demand. As technical writers can earn $40 an hour, it’s critical to understand what the different types of technical writing are, and make yourself more valuable as you connect with employers and freelance gigs. Look forward to an interesting, promising, and challenging career!
Types of Technical Writing
Technical writing provides detail-oriented instruction to help users understand a specific skill. The most common types include:
- Traditional: Repair manuals, medical studies
- End-user documentation: Electronics, consumer products
- Technical marketing content: Press releases, catalogs
Each type of writing is then narrowed down with subcategories for the purpose of providing simplified instruction for users.
Traditional Technical Writing
While traditional technical writing sounds broad, pieces of content within this category are specifically written for professional audiences. These experts rely on traditional technical writing for targeted research papers, programming guidelines, and repair manuals.
Science and Medical Papers
Research results can be hard to explain, so scientists collaborate with technical writers to interpret and organize findings. These results are published in medical journals, so the presentation of material requires fine detail, accuracy, and organization. These papers act as learning resources for practitioners to understand procedures and results. As with any form of research, technical writers ensure that proper credibility is given in the text.
Professional Reports and Reviews
In addition to writing for scientists and doctors, technical writers assist in creating reports for business growth and educational institutions. Examples of professional reports include project and business status reports, legal case reviews, and personnel activity reports.
10 Key Attributes Of Technical Writing
Being able to explain characteristics of technical writing is important, especially since the industry is all about explaining topics to others. Keeping these key technical writing attributes in mind will make your writing coherent and consistent:
- Stick to a technical subject
- Have a purpose
- Maintain an objective
- Convey solid information/facts/data
- Be impersonal
- Stay concise
- Maintain direction
- Keep style and format consistent
- Content is archival
- Properly cite contributions
Almost every product you purchase has a written explanation of operation. These “how-to” pieces are written to help users understand and operate products correctly. After all, what good is a product if users don’t know how to properly use it? Since end-user documentation requires clear and concise instruction, it’s important to create content that breaks down technological terms to layman’s terms. Specific examples of end-user documentation are as follows:
User Help Guides
When software product users have questions that needs specific answers, they turn to user help guides. These are written to provide clear and sensible answers to common questions that may develop as use of software programs continue. User help guides are broken down into sections depending on the type of ‘help’ needed – allowing users to read ahead or re-read information to make their understanding of a product stronger.
You know you’ve seen these — and are guilty of adding them to a bookshelf before reading. Product manuals are those small booklets that highlight a product’s main features, general maintenance, and basic operation. Examples of product manuals you’ve heard of include owner’s manuals for cars and operator’s manuals for heavy machinery.
Since assembly guidelines tell users how to physically set up a product, technical writers are responsible for writing clear and user-friendly, step-by-step instructions. It’s important for these instructions to be written in a way that ensure users can accurately assemble products. Just think: if you used the assembly guide that came with your new entertainment system, you probably would have put it together in half the time!
Similar to user help guides, technical writers are hired to write guides for users to understand the ins and outs of a product; most often software products. It’s critical for these technical books to be accessible and of interest to non-expert users. If you’re thinking of writing a technical book, check out Udemy’s guide on writing a how-to book.
The Most Common Technical Writing Mistakes
Looking to hone your skills? The Center For Technical Communication identifies these as the most the common technical writing mistakes:
- Poorly defined topic
- Lengthy sentences and big words
- Scattered page layout
- Inadequate content
- Inconsistent tone
Technical Marketing Content
If you have an eye for detail and a way with words, creating technical marketing content is the category for you. Developers’ products wouldn’t be much use if consumers don’t understand how to properly operate them. To avoid this, technical marketing content serves as a bridge for products, consumers, and businesses understand each other.
White Papers and Case Studies
White papers are written to highlight a company’s success — and in this case, success with certain products or services. Technical writers investigate problematic topics of a specific audience and integrate a company’s product to create solutions. On the other hand, case studies are experience reports that provide details of how an account’s business goals were met with the help of a product.
Think of it this way:
|Case Study||White Paper|
|Focus||One customer’s experience.||New solution to an old problem, or the benefits of a B2B product or service.|
|Message||This customer loves our product our service||Here’s how our B2B product or service can benefit you|
|Length||1-2 Pages||5-12 Pages|
Proposals and Pitches
Many B2B (business to business) sale relations involve proposals and pitches written by technical writers. Once a company presents the specs for a collaboration or solution, tech writers join the team to explain the technical aspects of proposals. Once the business plan is set, technical writers then gather key elements of the executive summary to create a pitch.
Brochures in technical communications are more than pretty pictures of a tropical island you’d like to plan a vacation to. Brochures take users to a deeper level of understanding and appeal through clear descriptions, functions, and uses of a product.
Top 5 Technical Writing Tools
The use of technical writing tools is vital in creating the best user experience when designing and editing content. Here’s the five most popular programs:
- Acrobat – An Adobe program that captures documents and allows users to view it in its original format and appearance.
- SnagIt – A screenshot tool available to Microsoft Windows and Mac OS operating systems that captures audio and video display.
- Visio – A program from Microsoft Office’s list of products that utilizes diagrams, charts, and layouts that are then used in flowcharts, playbooks, and network diagramming.
- PhotoShop – Digital image editing software from Adobe that allows for editing photos, graphics, and other images.
- FrameMaker – An Adobe processor designed for writing and editing complex documents frequently constructed by technical writers.
For as long as technology exists and develops, technical writers will be in demand to help users operate products and software. This is especially true in the IT industry- where technical writers salaries average $58,000 in 2016. If you’re just starting out in technical communications, add value to yourself by taking advantage of online certification courses or a local community college.
Explore our Top Technical Writing Roles
Collabera places technical writers in roles at leading companies worldwide. There is always a need, and we are always on the lookout. Searching for a new role as a technical writer? Check out some of our top jobs today!