What Is Technical Writing?

What Is Technical Writing?

by Susan Huebert
Jobs People Do | JobsPeopleDo.com

Imagine getting a new phone or computer device for your birthday. Would you already know how to use it or would you need to look at the instructions? When you were younger, did you ever have toys that needed to be put together before you could play with them? If so, you or your parents probably read a technical document—the instructions. Compiling instructions for toys or electronics is only one of the many jobs available to people known as technical writers. People working in this field can write instruction manuals, research papers, advertisements, catalogues, and anything else that requires their special skills.

Basically, technical writing is about explaining something to another person, but the work can take different forms. One kind of technical writing is about explaining products to the people who buy and use them. It could be the instructions that come with toys, electronics, or kitchen appliances like mixers or dishwashers. It could even be the instructions on packages of instant soup or microwave dinners.

A second kind of technical writing is about explaining and recording procedures for people working in many different areas, such as engineering and manufacturing. It could include research papers, repair manuals, or procedures for completing certain tasks, such as engineering instructions on what measurements to use for certain types of building projects. This type of technical writing could also include detailed job descriptions for people working in all kinds of areas such as librarianship or accounting. The name for this writing style is technical documentation.

A third type of technical writing is in the area of marketing or selling things. Technical writers work with advertisements, catalogues, brochures, and other documents that companies use to tell customers about their products and to convince them to buy something. A lot of the advertising you see might come from the work of technical writers.

Becoming a technical writer involves more than just knowing how to put sentences and paragraphs together. Technical writers need to be able to gather information quickly and to be able to explain it clearly. They have to know the audience (the people who will read the finished documents) and know what kinds of information readers will need. An instruction manual for using a computer game, for example, is very different from a guide to drilling oil wells. Technical writers have to be flexible workers and quick learners, comfortable with working in print or online.

Almost everyone works as a technical writer at some point. The best way to become a professional technical writer, however, is to get a diploma or certificate in technical communications at a community college. The demand for good writers is increasing, although it can be hard to find a full-time job. Most technical writers work on projects and then move on to other jobs when they are finished. The pay, however, is usually quite good, which helps to make up for times when there is no work. If you love to write, why not become a technical writer?

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