Technical Writing: What are the different types of technical writing?

4 min read

Career Trends: August 20, 2022
Curated by the Knowledge Team of ICS Career GPS

Technical writers bridge the gap existing between subject matter experts and the general public by explaining a topic in lucid language.

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Technical writing is the task of simplifying the complex. The writing itself involves elaborating technical information and presenting it in a manner that makes it easy to understand. This includes, and is not limited to, the preparation of technical documents and manuals. Some of the common forms of technical writing are: white papers, instruction manuals, manuals, and product descriptions.

As technology becomes more complex, and more people look at finding solutions to their technical or technological problems themselves, the requirement for technical writers will continue to grow in the near future.

Types of Technical writing

Broadly, there are four different types of technical writing:

1. Scientific and Medical Papers
  • Technical writing in these fields falls under the traditional category.
  • This involves taking technical information from course-specific books or research papers and modifying it to make it understandable for a specific audience.
  • Researchers use this academic method to analyse their findings, prepare reports and organise them into engaging content published in journals, newsletters, or digital platforms.
2. User Manuals
  • User manuals are the most basic form of technical writing that a writer comes across once they enter the field.
  • User manuals generally answer questions regarding the specific use of consumer products and seek to improve the user experience for all users.
  • Writing longer subject-specific guides or books is also a form of technical writing.
  • These guides break the product down into smaller components, explain how it works, as well as include a troubleshooting section to tackle any problems the user may face.
3. Assembly Manuals
  • Assembly manuals are the most common form of technical writing that happens in a corporation’s mechanical department.
  • These manuals contain details about the disassembly and reassembly process of a particular machine or piece of equipment.
  • The language differs from other forms of technical communication.
  • Assembly manuals are also coming into vogue these days for consumer products with many ‘DIY-ers’ buying furniture or other things that need to be assembled by the consumer.
4. Technical Documents
  • Documentation at corporates often includes reviewing and reporting on stakeholder meetings, business proposals, and presentations.
  • This form of writing combines academic reports with technical research-based guides.
  • Furthermore, technical reports in a corporate set-up include feasibility reports, research reports, business plans, proposal briefs, press releases, case studies, etc.

Skills of a technical writer

Though the basic skills for technical writers are pretty much the same as for any writers in a different categories, some specific skills still remain dedicated for this niche:

1. Research Skills
  • Technical writers must hold the ability to conduct strong and detailed research on a subject before they commence writing to produce content that serves the purpose.
  • Technical writers must be able to identify the most important points of content before they start writing.
  • They should also be able to do tertiary research and substantiate the content as they go along.
2. Extensive Technical Knowledge
  • A technical writer must have an extensive and in-depth understanding of the subject that they are writing about.
  • Having deep knowledge allows them to simplify the content in a way which is easier to understand and covers all the important points.
  • They must also be able to use their knowledge to create reports and guides that match the brief or requirement.
3. Tech-Savvy Personality
  • The contemporary era requires technical writers to know about content development software systems to develop high-quality content within a short period.
  • Aspirants can consider taking up an online course on software systems for content creation before stepping into the field.
4. Proofreading and Editing Skills
  • Technical writers must be able to read and verify their work and spot typos, spelling and grammatical errors, to excel in this professional field.
  • Such write-ups must be professional and free of errors before it reaches a common reader.

Technical writers bridge the gap existing between subject matter experts and the general public by explaining a topic in lucid language.

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(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in the above mentioned article are those of the author(s). They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of ICS Career GPS or its staff.)

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