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  • Writer's pictureJessica

What is Technical Writing?

mouse and keyboard on desk

Ask someone what technical writing is, and you might get a variety of different answers.

"Oh, that's like writing about software, right?"

"Technical writers write about the medical field. Or engineering, I don't remember which one."

"You write thousand-page user guides and manuals that no one ever reads."

These are based on actual comments I heard or read while studying technical communication in college.

And these are all kind of true, except for the very end of that last comment, I hope. Ouch.

What is a technical writer?

Technical writing isn't so much about the industry you work in or the types of documents you produce. A technical writer is still a writer, and their primary job is to communicate.

Think of technical writing as a simple machine:

  1. A big chunk of complicated, specialized information is the input. This info might be written in technical jargon, or it at least requires some knowledge in the field to understand it.

  2. The technical writer receives this information and works their writing magic. They read it, digest it, and transform it into something else.

  3. A well-written piece of content is the output. The average person who isn't an expert in that field should be able to read it and understand it. That's the goal.

You've likely seen the output in a lot of different forms: instruction manuals, white papers, reference guides, tutorials. Technical writing documents might also include press releases, memos, and proposals.

So, what does a technical writer do? Technical writer Kate Schneider nailed it in this blog: "Simply put, technical writers explain things."

What does it take to be a technical writer?

Many technical writers work in fields like computer science, IT, medicine, government, or engineering. That's where the "technical" part comes from. Highly specialized, expert content is part of the everyday technical writing work in these industries.

A passion for the subject matter helps, but tech writers don't need to become experts themselves in order to write for one of these fields. For example, you don't need to get a Ph.D in aerospace engineering in order to write about the next big thing in rockets.

What you do need is an understanding of audience. Command of language. Fluency with digital tools. And research and writing skills.

Remember: a technical writer's job is to "write about highly technical subjects but in a way that a beginner—a nonspecialist—could understand."

That ability to "translate" complex, technical information for the average audience is the primary skill technical writers need to succeed.

How do I know I need a technical writer?

Good question. If you're reading this blog, you're probably thinking of hiring one already, and there's a very good chance your brand or organization could benefit from one.

Technical writers can:

  • write user-friendly documentation for your customers

  • record internal processes for your company, creating handy documentation

  • free up the workload from your other employees, like developers or engineers

  • create content from your customers' perspective...meaning they understand their pain points, needs, and goals

Sound good?

If you're ready to hire a technical writer for your next project, let's chat.

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