Technical Writing – An overview

Posted In Tech Writing - By Sudipa Sarkar On Sunday, November 9th, 2008 With 2 Comments

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Technical writing, a form of technical communication, is a style of formal writing, used in fields as diverse as computer hardware and software, chemistry, the aerospace industry, robotics, finance, consumer electronics, and biotechnology to convey a particular piece of information to a particular audience for a particular purpose. It is often exposition about scientific subjects and technical subjects associated with sciences.

Technical writing clarifies technical jargon and presents useful information that is clear and easy to understand for the intended audience. Thus, audience analysis is a key feature of all technical writing.

Technical editing may involve working with brilliant researchers and scientists, who may be world-class experts in fluid dynamics or swine reproduction, but who may not know a paragraph from a participle. Some of these will be eternally grateful for your help, and others may resent your interference.

For a large project, a technical writer may work with a graphic designer, an interface designer, several computer programmers, and a staff of freelance writers to design a huge web site. For a small project, or for a small company, the technical writer may be expected to do all of the above, all alone.

The first rule of technical writing is “know your audience.” Writers who know their audiences well are in a position to suggest and implement solutions to problems that nobody else identifies.  A Technical Writer serves as a bridge between one group of people who has specialized knowledge and another group who does not technicalities involved in it. But, technical writers are not just translators, accepting wisdom from experts and passing it on unquestioningly; they also are in the business of generating truth, by choosing what gets written, and for whom, with the full knowledge that later readers will depend on the accuracy of what has been written.

Basics of Technical Writing

The process of developing information products in technical communication begins with ensuring that the nature of the audience and their need for information is clearly identified. A Technical Writer researches and structures the content into a framework that can guide the detailed development. As the information product is created, the paramount goal is ensuring that the content can be clearly understood by the intended audience and provides the information that the audience needs in the most appropriate format. Therefore, there are always at least three steps in every documentation project:

  • Identify the audience
  • Research and structure the content
  • Ensure that it is accurate and understood

Technical Writing is a Conversation

Technical writing is a conversation between the user and the technical writer – in the sense that the technical writer must anticipate the questions a user would ask about the software. It may happen, sometimes, the users do not know the correct question to ask. In those situations, you as a Technical Writer think out the questions for them and answer them in advance. Provide them with the conversation starter and they’re more likely to be engaged.

Therefore, all your communication whether it’s real time or not needs to be concise, clear, and efficient.

What does a Technical Writer Do?

A Technical Writer is a person who writes about technical topics and has the ability to explain complicated concepts in clear, easy-to-understand prose. A technical writer is a translator and he /she starts with a complicated piece of technology and skillfully explains a simple person how to use that technology. Essentially anyone who writes about technology for other people is typically referred to as a technical writer.

This simple mission requires more than just writing ability and an understanding of technology – although both of these skills are critical, they aren’t enough.

-Sudipa Sarkar

(A Technical writer by profession and a resume writer by choice.)