What is a technical writer?
A technical writer communicates complex ideas and information so it is easily digestible to the average reader.
This is important for publications such as instruction manuals or journal articles which intend to inform the general public on technical matters.
Technical writing can also be referred to as transactional writing, as it speaks directly to the reader often to either inform or persuade.
The talent of a technical writer is their ability to keep the user in mind when writing. To produce an effective piece of writing, they must continuously be aware of the audience’s needs.
By researching and visualising the user, they can write in a way that is direct and understandable for their specific target audience.
Why is technical writing important?
Technical writing can make products and services more accessible to the general public by simplifying technical information.
This can be beneficial for businesses, increasing conversion rates by appealing to a wider scope of the population.
Technical writers endeavour to have an in-depth and broad understanding of the subject at hand, therefore can communicate the most accurate and relevant information.
As technology advances, technical writers are becoming more in demand across multiple industries rather than restricted to engineering or science-driven industries.
This is also a result of the continued expansion of technical and web-based products. In fact, according to Truity, employment of technical writers is projected to grow by 10-15% by 2022.
The principles of technical writing
Technical writing is often guided by context and audience, however, there are a few principles which remain consistent across most technical writing.
Technical writing is written with a purpose in mind, whether it is intended to inform or persuade. This can be either an explicit or implicit purpose depending on the context.
It is also user-focused, meaning the user needs are considered throughout to write an understandable and accessible document.
The writer must be clear and precise throughout for this to be possible.
Technical writing often requires the use of visuals to further illustrate complex points, diagrams and graphs are commonplace in this form of writing.
The technical writing process
Technical writing requires a significant amount of preparation before you can even begin writing.
The following process can be considered iterative and it is advised to return and review each step to ensure you have achieved the maximum potential.
Firstly, you need to analyse the project brief to fully ensure you understand the task at hand.
The following should be addressed: demographic, subject, content, purpose and document type.
Analysing the audience is an essential part of the process, as with technical writing facts do not change but the way they are conveyed does.
To produce a successful piece of technical writing, the writer must research and become familiar with the user needs and experience.
Once the user need has been identified it will guide the whole document.
According to Mindtouch, good technical writers deliver value for the customer. It is worth keeping in mind how your writing is benefiting the reader.
With technical and complex information it needs to be organised in a way that is easily followed.
At this stage, it is time to organise ideas into headings and subheadings to ensure the document will flow appropriately.
This stage can be carried out at any point in the process and often repeatedly.
Industry experts can provide clarity and ensure that technical information is consistently correct.
With a solid base of research and planning, it is now time to begin writing.
Keep into consideration key technical elements such as using an active voice, avoiding jargon and foregrounding important information in sentence structure.
In the final phase, it is important to review the entire document checking for any grammatical errors or inconsistencies.
In-house vs. freelance writers
Companies working within technical fields often have an in-house technical writer.
This poses several advantages including the ability to consult experts directly and regular to ensure information is as accurate as possible.
However, for smaller companies employing a technical writer is not an option. Instead, they have the option to outsource technical writers to keep within their budget.
For example, Mad Communications offer technical writing services involving intensive research into various subject areas before writing professional content.
Ultimately, technical writing supports business innovation by making a product or service more accessible and increasing conversion rate.
It is therefore worth investing both your time and money into to make sure your brand’s voice is clear and understandable.