From electronic appliances to the technical services on mobile phones, it is not as easy as we think for developers to clear all bugs as they launch the product. However, it makes it a lot easier for them to remove bugs as the product is in motion because users demand bug fixes. But before that, something we must look into is the user guide of that particular product, service, or new technology you are adopting.
Do you remember unpacking your first mobile phone or laptop? Or, if you are a graphic designer or an SEO analyst, what is the first thing you see on your screen as you install new software on your system? At max, you find a couple of papers called technical documents or instruction manuals technically before you pay a look at the product. Those documents guide you through everything and help you at every step till you get familiar with the system. But did you ever wonder who would write such easy sentences? You got it right, a technical writer.
Wondering what is technical writing and what technical writers do? Here is everything you need to know. This 3000-word blog will help you understand one of the most googled questions, What Is Technical Writing?, with examples and how-to guides to help you master technical writing.
1. What Is Technical Writing?
Technical writing is a professional writing skill with a few rules and regulations. However, its main motive is to provide digestive information to the end-user by breaking down complex technical data into chunks and straightforward language, which is called technical documentation. Technical writing covers instruction manuals, memos, product descriptions, journal articles, user manuals, tutorials, technical material, quick reference guides, software documentation, and white papers, including social media posts, press releases, and the web.
2. What Does a Technical Writer Do?
A technical writer breaks the complex information to make it more versatile and will be responsible for creating technical documents such as product manuals, how-to guides, journal articles, and others in the easiest way possible without losing the essence of technical terms. For instance, the product descriptions and features you check online before buying the product and a couple of papers you get when you unbox your mobile phone.
The term technical writer takes more than what it is. The professional writer will have a substantial technical background in software engineering, Information Technology, and information development and good communication skills. Together with industry knowledge and good communication skills, they draft the documents as uncomplicated as possible for their customers or non-technical people.
3. How Is Technical Writing Different from Other Types of Writing?
While there are other types of writing, such as content writing, copywriting, creative writing, business writing, and others, business writing is unique. Although business writing is a niche under content writing, the rules and regulations one must follow while writing it sets it apart. However, its purpose is to address people’s problems with information rather than amuse, entertain, or arouse emotional feelings like most other writing styles and types.
4. Technical Writing Skills
Technical writing skills are as significant as following the proper writing style. All these skills take apart while drafting the best technical document. Technical writing encompasses 7 skills.
4.1. Know Your Product
The first step to drafting the best technical manuals is understanding your product. A clear understanding of the product is the most fundamental skill of a technical writer. A few things to consider are:
- Product functionality
- Products use and how does it solve daily problems
- Functional and non-functional aspects of the product
- Replacement, troubleshooting, and others.
You do not have to go in-depth while documenting. For instance, if you are launching a website, you can ascertain its uses, features it offers, and why you should use it, but documenting the code you used to build the website is of no use.
4.2. Keen Understanding of The Products Industry
You should have in-depth knowledge of your invention and its functionality to formulate documents the best you can. An intense familiarity with the industry is as essential as knowing the product. Once you understand the domain you are working in, it will be much simpler for you to create and formulate the requirement.
4.3. Persona Targeting
Persona targeting is focusing on a group of customers at first. Primarily, there are B2B and B2C customers whose motives and views vary from each other. B2B is an intermediary customer that buys from a business and sells it to the customer, which is B2C. Technical writers focus on whom they are writing to before documenting the technical reports. If they sell to a B2B company, they need to compose a little more technical, getting in-depth into the product. But technical writing for a customer only encompasses how-to or user guides, regular product documents, and more, as they only aim to use a product with good functionality.
The mode of technical communications widely depends on your customer’s relationship with the product. Products come with user booklets, while services like software come with pdf documents and others to help people skim the information they need. But understanding your customer’s interaction before launching your services is crucial to maintain effective communication – do they need to learn through videos, documents, or pdfs?
4.5. Basic Graphic Design Skills
Gone are the days when people were adjusting just to printed copies. Now, every company is getting creative and finding better ways to communicate well with their customers. One of their strategies is to show people pictures of how to do what they are looking for, not just the information. And if it is a service with online documents, their creativity is not limited to pictures but goes beyond showing 3D portraits, animations, and videos. So, a little graphic design knowledge can help you stand out in the current technological world.
Research is a crucial part of technical writers’ lives regarding industry, product, customer, and company. No matter how talented you are in your industry, yet doing research will provide you with new insights to write.
4.7. Good Teamwork
Teamwork is just as crucial as researching the content. Building a healthy relationship with the team members like programmers, designers, developers, project managers, and others will help you draft decisive content.
5. The Characteristics of Technical Writing
Every form of writing will follow a couple of rules and regulations and vary from one type of writing to another. Likewise, there is a technical writing process to follow. These steps are fundamental and crucial to follow to become a successful technical writer.
Technical communication is about letting people understand the printings on a couple of papers. So, the technical information you provide or write should be clear and concise.
Technical documents are not just apparent, but also they are straightforward. A good technical writer writes on the audience’s pain points rather than using creative writing techniques.
Technology is unbelievably complex to understand for non-technical people. To deal with such cases, technical writers use technical names precisely when pointing out something.
It does not matter how precise and explicit your writing is unless it is easy to read and understand. An adequate writer does not complicate things with fancy phrases and words to sound shrewd. Instead, his focus remains on the user.
Technical writers furnish the technical content with more detail than any other form of writing. So, without driving the readers nuts, technical writers write the content more explicitly, straightforwardly, and with an attribute that helps readers grasp the lines as they read.
Technical writing is structured as readers go through them for guidance. So, the first few lines should connect with the subsequent lines. As readers read the document, they should not feel confused.
Technical reports or manuals are drafted while staying in the customer’s shoes. So, the document will have bullet points and headings to help the user skim through the content without reading the whole composition.
After all, technical writing aims to help with guidance and educate them about a particular product or service. Technical writers write technical information more problem-solving with tips and solutions to most FAQs.
Both technical skills and technical characteristics help technical writers sound more professional and draft adequate content pieces in the industry.
Also, skills like good communication, reaching out to people, formal and informal writing, and other job skills also play an essential role in reaching your dream. From writing a cold email to taking face-to-face interviews, interpersonal skills help you more than technical skills.
6. 7 Easy Steps to Become a Professional Technical Writer
Skills like graphic designing, good communication, formatting, and others are crucial to become a technical writer. Below are the steps to becoming a technical writer.
6.1. Earn a Bachelor’s Degree
Technical writing is a professional way of forming lines. So it requires a minimum qualification of a degree in technical communications and journalism and a minimum knowledge in the engineering fields such as computers, data science, and medicine. Knowing the technology industry can help you get technical writing jobs effortlessly. You can have these pieces of training aside from the major you are pursuing.
6.2. Enroll in Technical Writing Courses
Though you do or do not have a technical background, a certified technical writer from a reputed platform will have a top hand in every interview you attend. Not just because of a certificate, you should take a course, but the knowledge and the skills you gain from experts will put you above the crowd. The system may take a quarter of a year, but the results will be fruitful.
6.3. Choose Your Niche
A niche is an area you will work for another couple of months by building expertise over it. However, it is not essential to niche down as you get started because experimenting with multiple areas will help you understand your abilities. In the long run, niching is crucial to get high-ticket projects.
6.4. Follow Industry Experts
Having a mentor or attending meet-and-greet programs are the best things you can do as a beginner. Starting a new journey can overwhelm you, but at some point, you might need assistance to help you remove the knots, and it is the mentor who can help and guide you through the process smoothly. You can build a professional network when you attend meet-and-greet programs and ensure to keep in touch with industry leaders.
6.5. Build Expertise
Since technical writing is the heart of the product, every technical job post expects a minimum experience from applicants. And internships are the best ways to build a little background before getting a real job. Start-ups or small businesses accept interns as they are not as expensive as an employee. And they guide you through everything.
6.6. Build a Robust Portfolio
A portfolio is the extension of a resume with in-depth information about your work, and it has the potential to build or break your technical writing dream. It contains sections – about you, testimonials, samples, and how to reach out to you. Make samples impeccable and as attractive as possible. Accept small projects and collect testimonials. In the about section, ensure to talk more about your work rather than about yourself.
6.7. Work Mode
The steps after building an attractive portfolio rely on the type of work you take – Do you want to take it full-time in an organization, or do you want to work as a freelancer? If it is full-time in an organization, you can follow the traditional methods like applying with a resume. But if you choose to be a freelancer, a substantial social media presence, an attractive portfolio, and good persuasive skills can work out. Try getting popular on a professional platform, LinkedIn, by sharing helpful insights in your industry.
7. Technical Writing Examples
There are tens of examples. Here is a list of 8 best-known examples you see every day.
7.1. User Manuals
User manuals come with every installation and electronic product, such as computers, mobile phones, washing machines, air conditioners, television, and other kitchen appliances. The user manual aims to guide the user on how to uphold it, sterile it, and more. Technical writers should focus on preparing the manual as user-friendly as possible to navigate for people with zero knowledge about the product.
Therefore, the target audience for manuals is amateurs, novices, and people using the product for the first time. A couple of years ago, user manuals were only limited to texts and photographs. However, manuals now also have 3d diagrams, numbered pictures, flow charts, warranty information, faqs, troubleshooting guides, and more. To create user-centred manuals, you should connect with engineers, product developers, and programmers to understand the product better.
7.2. Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)
SOPs are the set of documents that explains the procedures of each task, and they are used in almost every organization to ensure the process is smooth and productive. An SOP document contains the following:
- Everything from basic to advanced processing.
- Hiring staff.
- Estimating repose time to simulating guidelines.
SOPs ensure everyone in the company teamwork and maintain quality by eliminating peculiarities, favouritism, and other human errors. Hence, working on SOPs requires an in-depth knowledge of how an industry works.
7.3. White Papers and Case Studies
Case studies and white papers serve different purposes and are different from other types of technical writing. Although both share the same objective, people write about their experience with a product by approving or disapproving it in a case study. White papers are writing on a specific topic and discussing the consequences encountered while discussing the solutions.
However, one thing that sets these both apart is the tonality of the language. White papers use active voice, while case study uses the passive voice. Case studies can be written from personal experience, while white papers require in-depth knowledge of the specific industry.
7.4. Press Releases
These are the formal documents circulated by the company to share important news or make an announcement to the public. And the press will accentuate the importance of the statement and why people should hear that. However, writing a press release follows a set of rules while drafting lines, as it is a fact-based document that contains direct quotes from the company’s stakeholders, like CEOs. But many technical writers follow the universal press release.
7.5. Annual Reports
Annual reports are documents exhibiting the company’s performance in the financial year. Although the reports are not technical all time, they vastly include dealing with stock performance, financial information, and new developments. Working on technical reports also comprises creative writing and good communication skills to create effective slides and papers.
7.6. Business Plans
Business plans are written in a company for the next financial year by developing a vision and funding. Anything a company venturing out needs a business plan to execute everything in the right way. Although this form of writing is not very technical, it still follows a few technical procedures. The business plans include an executive summary of everything regarding the business, product, or service description briefing about the product or service. Also, it incorporates the management team members’ information, data about how the organization should work, schedules, profit and loss projections, financial planning, and an appendix. You have to work with business proprietors to create extensive business plans.
“What is technical writing?” is a broad topic to explain. However, technical writers take responsibility for creating user-friendly products or service-related information with high industry knowledge. Mastering technical writing can be difficult as getting started, but it can be easier if you take the proper steps, follow industry people, and choose the right path.