What is Technical Writing? (Plus Four Tips)
When I tell people I work in technical writing, most of them nod politely, but I’m not sure they know what I mean. To be fair, before going to university and working at Scriptorium, I didn’t know what “tech” writing was either.
Technical writing: A type of business communication that professionals use to convey information about specialized topics.
Examples of Technical Writing
Some examples of technical writing include:
Policies and procedures
Training and learning materials
Why It Is Important
Technical writing is important because it delivers complex information in a simple way that is accessible to the reader. Whether for a general audience, internal audience, or field-specific personnel, technical writing finds a way to communicate a topic in a straightforward and easily digestible manner. Without technical writing, readers could be lost in a sea of technical jargon and complex information that is difficult to understand.
Technical Writing Tips
At the beginning of my technical writing internship, I didn’t have an efficient system when approaching projects. It’s important to figure out a system that works for you so you can be thorough and efficient. Below are some questions I ask myself when starting a project.
How long is this document/project?
The length of the document will determine my approach. For shorter projects, I can transfer everything or draft a rough copy and then do a few passes to edit and proofread. For longer projects, especially on a deadline, I will make sure every page is perfect before moving on to the next. It's much more efficient when there isn’t time to do multiple read-throughs.
Is there a hard deadline?
If there isn’t a deadline, or if the deadline is far away, I have more flexibility in my approach. I can transfer or draft a document and go through it multiple times, ensuring that there are no errors. If there is a hard deadline, it’s important to create a schedule to ensure that the final project is ready on time. I usually avoid asking for extensions unless absolutely necessary. Planning is key!
What should the end result look like?
It’s important to clearly establish the goal of the project and what the end result should look like before getting started. The worst thing is getting started on a project and realizing halfway through that the client is looking for something different than what I’m producing. Asking a few more initial questions is a better option than wasting your time and the client’s time.
Is there a style guide?
If I’m working for a regular client, there’s a good chance that there’s a style guide to work with, whether it’s one that they follow or one that we’ve created. In this case, it’s important to closely follow the guide and become familiar with it so I’m not making avoidable errors. When working for a new client, ask if they already follow a guide. If they don’t, starting to put one together is a good idea. Consistency is essential.
We understand that technical writing may not be for everyone. Luckily, it’s something that Scriptorium specializes in and loves. Reach out to us if you have a dreaded technical writing project, and we’ll be sure to get the hard stuff done for you!