Characteristics of Technical Writing

Jodee Redmond
Writer at work

Becoming familiar with the characteristics of technical writing can help you decide whether this is something you would like to pursue in your freelance career.

What Is Technical Writing?

Technical writing is a field with a number of different applications. People who work as technical writers can find assignments in the following types of industries:

  • Aerospace
  • Biotechnology
  • Chemistry
  • Computer hardware
  • Computer software
  • Electronics
  • Finance
  • Robotics

A technical writer may be asked to work on various kinds of materials. He or she will review existing works and may also need to interview subject matter experts to gather more information.

The technical writer takes information and presents it in a way that the reader can understand. If you have ever read a set of instructions to assemble a product, set up a stereo, or use a new piece of software, then you have seen the work of a technical writer. Other forms of communication that a technical writer would work on are:

  • Installation guides for software
  • Legal disclaimers
  • Online help pages
  • Policies and procedures manuals
  • Release notes
  • Troubleshooting guides
  • Tutorials
  • White papers

Some Characteristics of Technical Writing

Technical writing is not the same as article writing, blogging, or creative writing. Some people may think that this form of communication is too dry to be interesting, but people who specialize in this area would not agree. It does require the writer to adopt a particular style of writing, though.

Accuracy Counts

A person who is writing instructions for a manual must provide the reader with accurate information. A thorough understanding of the subject and an eye for detail will help the technical writer to communicate the instructions or other content clearly to the reader.

Use Language the Reader Will Understand

A piece of writing designed to be used by a consumer who is trying to use a new piece of software or who needs troubleshooting tips is not written using the same terms as something that is geared toward those who are already subject matter experts in that area. The writer must consider who will be reading and using the material before they start composing it.

Using a lot of technical jargon or buzzwords the reader will find hard to follow is not the best way to write a technical piece. If a technical writer decides to use this type of language, he or she should explain the term in the text so that the reader can follow the instructions or understand the idea the writer is trying to get across.

Don't Forget the Details

The technical writer who is working on a piece has an advantage over the reader. He or she knows the idea they want to convey or the steps involved in the process they are trying to describe. Including lots of details in the text is important. This step helps the reader to follow along with the instructions being given.The technical writer must keep in mind that the person reading the finished piece must be given all the information they need in written form. They aren't in the room or on the phone where they can ask questions if they get stuck. The technical writer needs to take care to give the person they are writing enough details, such as a description of a particular part or where to find a key or command when trying to use a software product.

Present the Information in a Logical Fashion

If you are writing instructions for how to do something, they need to follow a logical order. Otherwise, the reader won't be able to get the result they are looking for. Instead of skipping over something because the reader should already be aware of that particular fact, the technical writer needs to include it in the text anyway. Being able to think logically and present the information in a step-by-step manner is one of the important characteristics of technical writing.

Characteristics of Technical Writing