The field of technical writing is different than what most people think of writing, in that it’s completely practical without the need for any kind of prose. Some don’t even realize that there are actual writers for this kind of thing, which includes various documents and texts that help you understand your technology and how to use it. It’s quite a complicated and logical process at the same time.
While the average person tries to avoid such text if they can, trying to use their devices as intuitively as they can, it must be available when needed. This is especially true in a professional working environment where efficiency and reliability are incredibly important. Even though engineers and technicians could write this sort of thing, they aren’t always the best when it comes to communication.
History of Technical Writing
The roots of this kind of written text can be found all the way back in classical antiquity, such as the works of Aristotle. You may think this person is only known for his philosophical works, but he also has some practical works as well. Another example is Geoffrey Chaucer, who wrote the technical piece, Treatise on the Astrolabe. This is another author famous for his fictional works who also wrote things of a more practical nature. Since most people during this time were illiterate, they likely had to write almost everything.
This discipline started to grow exponentially during the start of the Industrial Revolution, where many inventions and technological advancements were discovered. It increased even more so during the next century, especially since World War II when the profession was officially recognized, and this followed many inventions. Since the discovery of the transistor and the increase in the number of computers, documents that explained how to use these devices were required to operate them properly and efficiently.
Techniques of Technical Writing
Normally, this kind of writing is done in a professional setting, such as an office or factory, where obscure terms related to technology are usually used to describe certain aspects of the technology. A simple way to communicate is required so that people from different fields can collaborate, such as the engineering and executive teams. This field is defined as the communication of specialized topics, communication through technology use, and giving instructions on how to do a task.
The ideal features of this discipline are writing that’s focused, concise, error-free, simple to understand, and geared towards its intended audience. The best documents as clear as possible so that the reader can understand what’s written. This includes avoiding technical phrases that most people can’t understand, even if they’re clear to the engineers and technicians that work with the devices regularly. In other words, the documents shouldn’t look like they were written in a foreign language.
Besides the basics in understanding what’s being written about, the most important job is being able to convey this information to a specific audience. The writer needs to examine their intended audience as well as understand what the audience’s knowledge is about what’s being discussed. For example, a doctor at a hospital has a much easier time understanding medical terms than an average person trying to use a home test kit. For most consumer products, plain and everyday language is necessary.
Sometimes, modern everyday language isn’t enough to convey the meaning of certain aspects of a device or other piece of technology. In this way, writers must have the skills to illustrate their points so the reader can understand what to do. While previously these were drawings in color and plain pencil, today it’s more than that. Computer programs can illustrate to better convey meanings when it comes to technical terms. Also, supplemental videos can be used to do the same when needed.
Technical Writing Examples
One of the most important works of this kind of writing is instructions and procedures to help end-users and even developers operate or set up a technological device or program. Specifically, these are known as user manuals and guides for troubleshooting when things go wrong. Some examples include computer hardware, computer software, medical equipment, engineering equipment, automotive vehicles, various consumer products, and much more.
Sometimes, technical writing is necessary when conveying something technical in a proposal. When trying to get support for a business idea through investments and loans, entrepreneurs don’t always get in front of people who understand the technical details of such an idea. Much of these texts are related to costs and implementations, including the costs related to a new technological invention, how a product actually works, the training structure for new technicians, and much more.
Business communication such as chat messages and emails are written frequently and are almost always of a practical nature. For instance, if a project manager wants to convey how to complete a certain complex task, a series of steps along with any required information is needed. Also, if someone from a technical department such as an engineering team needs to convey a technical report to an executive, that meaning will need to be clearly understood with minimal amounts of specific knowledge.
Even between developers, there are many obscure and complex terms and ideas that not everyone understands. This is because some aspects are just arbitrary and up to the developer to define and classify. Documentation is necessary for this area, even when communicating with other developers. This includes something like API documentation, where the terms and functions are very specific to a particular piece of software. Another example is an entirely new programming language for developers.
You can better know how important the technical writing professional is to today’s world from reading this article. It’s a required skill of understanding how various technologies work and how to convey the different aspects of various devices. Otherwise, everyone would be stuck trying to figure out what the original engineers and programmers meant when everything is coded by numbers.
Even though having such material is important when you need it, it’s also good to look some things up even when you don’t need help with a device right away. This allows you to know about how your devices work and how to use them more efficiently. Since technology is an important part of everyday life, it’s important to have control over it rather than leaving total control up to others.
Technical Writing | Infographic