Suppose you’re preparing to roll out an exciting new app, and you need a step-by-step guide to show customers how to use it. Or, maybe your organization recently completed a groundbreaking study and you’re eager to share what you’ve learned — except you have no idea where to start. If these — or similar — dilemmas sound familiar, you probably need a technical writer.
A technical writer helps make complex topics understandable, so you can effectively deliver information to employees, colleagues and customers. For many companies, particularly those in the technology, scientific or medical space, this can mean the difference between success and failure.
So, can technical writing benefit you? To answer that question, let’s take a deeper dive into what technical writing is and why it’s so important in certain industries and departments.
What Is Technical Writing?
Technical writing aims to make the complex simple. It’s a form of written or digital communication that documents specific processes or imparts information about complex or specialized subjects with a high level of accuracy and in the most efficient way possible. For example, technical writing may deliver research findings, forecast or analyze industry trends or provide instructions for difficult tasks. If you’ve ever had to create a user guide or assembly instructions, you’ve used technical writing skills.
Technical writing often targets a narrow audience consisting of industry professionals, such as engineers, doctors or scientists. However, content may also be aimed at a general audience, which often includes users of a product or service. In the latter case, technical writing must present complex topics in a way that even a layman can understand.
Who Needs Technical Writing?
STEM-related industries, including scientific or medical organizations and computer-related companies, often hire technical writers to create product documentation, operator manuals and other instructional materials to help employees and customers understand complex topics and to teach them how to execute technical tasks. Additionally, technical writing is important in the management space, particularly in industries that must deliver complex quarterly or annual financial reports.
However, any business that needs to share accurate or complex information with their employees, customers or other industry professionals, can benefit from technical writing services. For example, a restaurant may require training materials to help new staff learn to use kitchen equipment, or a furniture manufacturer may need to provide assembly instructions with their products.
How Does Technical Writing Work?
There’s no universal formula for technical writing. The process can vary widely depending on the type of content, the targeted audience and the industry. However, regardless of type, most technical writing involves several stages:
- Defining the content: Typically, the person who orders the content lets the writer know what tone, writing style and difficulty level they should aim for. Writers should also know the target audience and its needs. In some cases, technical writers may have a say in choosing the best medium for the message or audience.
- Gathering resources: A technical writer should have access to all relevant resources, which may include item specifications, research data and product samples.
- Consulting with relevant experts: Often, technical writers work directly with technical staff, product liability specialists and customer service managers to ensure the content they create is as clear and accurate as possible, complies with safety regulations and meets any other organizational requirements.
- Creating the content: Technical writers may write text from scratch or update existing content to meet new or changing needs, or to address revised product specifications or corrected information. Content creation may also involve incorporating visual elements, such as photos, illustrations, graphs or animation to enhance clarity and comprehensibility.
What Are the Characteristics of Technical Writing?
Although technical writing spans a continuum of written and digital content, high-quality examples typically share several common characteristics:
- Accuracy: The main goal of technical writing is to convey information, so it must be accurate. Incorrect, vague or outdated information can result in costly mistakes, lost customers and, in extreme cases, legal action.
- Thoroughness: To be effective, technical writing must be thorough and comprehensive. It should address all relevant aspects of the topic and may include visual accompaniments to complement written text.
- Logic: Technical writing must make sense, so actionable steps are easy to follow. It should never include contradictory information or gaps in logic that could diminish authority or credibility.
- Sequence: Technical writing embodies the philosophy of one step at a time. Particularly in operator guides and other “how-to” instructional materials, writers should make sure all steps are listed in the order they must be performed.
- Organization: Readers don’t want to skip around to find important information. Technical writers should present the material in a well-organized, intuitive fashion.
- Economy: Because technical writing is meant to inform or instruct, every word matters, and text should include no wasted words. If you can convey information sufficiently in 50 words, don’t use 75.
- Audience appropriateness: Technical writing may target different audiences. The complexity and style of writing should be appropriate for the intended audience. For example, technical writing aimed at a general user should be substantially different in tone, vocabulary and style from writing aimed at engineers or other technical professionals.
What Are the Different Types of Technical Writing Services?
Depending on the industry and a company’s unique needs, technical writing can take many forms. Although the applications are numerous, common types of technical writing services include:
- Case studies: These in-depth studies may focus on individuals, groups or events.
- Assembly manuals: Step-by-step assembly guides show consumers how to safely and correctly put together a product.
- User guides/user manuals: These guides provide comprehensive information about operating a product or using a service.
- Product specifications: Spec sheets highlight features and functions of an item. They may include dimensions, materials and safety specifications.
- FAQs: Often used on websites, FAQs answer frequently asked questions about products and services.
- White papers: These informational documents typically highlight information about a product, service or solution
- Quarterly or annual reports: These public-facing reports summarize a company’s financial statements. They typically include a profit-and-loss statement.
- API documentation: API documents typically include tutorials, references, tutorials and other materials that help developers understand and use your application programming interface.
- Statements of work: These legally binding documents define the scope of a project. They may include a project’s goals, deliverables and schedule.
- Literature reviews: These documents summarize previous research and scholarly sources on a given topic.
- Technical video scripts: Scripts may be written for television, radio, Internet or podcast.
How Technical Writing Skills Differ From Copywriting Skills
Both technical writers and copywriters must be able to write clear, readable content, but they differ in many areas. Copywriters need to create engaging, marketing-focused content that drives sales, while technical writers deliver objective instructional or informative content designed for employees, customers and industry professionals.
Besides knowing how to write well, technical writers often have a specialized skill set, which includes experience in or knowledge of the topic they’re writing about. In many cases, technical writers must be able to distill complex information into language that the general population can understand. They must also be able to share, discuss and understand the information received from technical professionals about a given subject. Because of this, technical writers often start out in technical or scientific jobs. In some industries, technical writers may need to hold a bachelor’s degree in a relevant field of study.
A Comparison of Copywriting, Business Writing and Technical Writing
|Copywriting||Business Writing||Technical Writing|
|Characteristics||CompellingConciseClearReadableEngagingSales-orientedSEO-optimizedInformative or entertainingCasual, conversational or formal||ClearPersuasivePurposefulAccurateConfident and polite|
InformativeProfessionalObjectiveOften contain a call to action
|DirectInformativePreciseTargetedLogicalSequentialComprehensiveOrganizedObjective and/or neutral|
|Applications||BrochuresNewslettersAdvertisementsBranding materialsWebsite contentSocial media adsTV, radio or podcast scriptsProduct descriptionsPromotional materials||MemosEmailsPrint correspondenceBusiness reportsHandbooksPress releasesBusiness plansMeeting agendasResumes and cover letters||Operator manualsProject plansWhite papersScientific or medical articlesProduct documentationAssembly instructionsProduct literature reviewsScripts on technical subjectsProduct recalls|
|Focus||Sales and marketing||All business functions||Technical aspects of a company|
It’s worth noting that many projects, such as video scripts or trade magazine articles, may combine elements of two or more types of writing.
How Technical Writing Services Can Benefit You
Whether you lack the resources to hire a full-time technical writer or you just want to leave the writing to someone else, outsourcing technical writing services can help your company gain the competitive edge. No matter how big or small your business is, you can acquire the top-notch instructional materials you need through Crowd Content.
Through Crowd Content’s world-class content writing services, you can order spec sheets, technical manuals and any other written documentation your business needs. Many of our dedicated, professional freelancers are subject matter experts and have the experience and expertise to create engaging, copy in technical areas, such as computer science and engineering.
When you work with Crowd Content, you’ll receive publish-ready, SEO-rich content that drives organic traffic to your website while meeting your company’s high standards. We can also accommodate any requirements you have regarding style and format, including citations, to cement your industry reputation. So, if your latest white paper or e-book is still nothing more than notes, leave the writing to Crowd Content and rest easy.