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Understanding Technical Writing

This is my first post and I could not resist the temptation of starting my blog with the most predictable and customary question. So here I am in my maiden attempt to understand the meaning of Technical Writing.

Technical writing, in general means to present technical information in a user understandable form to a selected set of people, like the user manual that accompanies your water purifying system or the manual that is handled to you while you board an aircraft.

Technical Writing is a sub branch of Technical Communication and as diverse and broad is the field of communication, same holds true for technical communication.  So, from writing documents  to creating user oriented information using various audio-visual aids like graphics representations, software simulations, video-audio instructions to transmit crisp and precise information for software or a machine falls into the category of Technical Communication.

The aim of technical writing is to help users identify, familiarize with a new product, making life easier for them.  Technical documents are also an important tool to help users in troubleshooting a problem, it acts a knowledge base, while people may seek guidance for a particular problem or feature in the product/application. Technically written material also enhances user productivity.

Sometimes people new to the field of Technical writing may confuse it with Technology writing. Under such circumstances it is even more important to develop a clear understanding of Technical writing and its nuances. Some of the distinguishing features of technical writing include:

  • Clear and concise communication
  • Simple and crisp language
  • Use of active voice
  • Writing in present tense
  • Short sentences
  • Technically accurate and validated information
  • Adhering to standard rules for instruction and procedure writing

These characteristics help to differentiate technical document from an article that describes the latest gadget and its features.

Few examples of technical writing are may help further.

The installation manual, the user manuals or the manual explaining the working of the solar cooker refer to as technical documents, whereas the manual about the product features, significance, advantages is not classified under technical writing.

On the other hand, medically qualified professionals use the operator’s manual of medical devices such as a MRI scanners. Such a manual qualifies as highly technical document and is intended to use by a skilled professional only.

If you are a software developer, the programmers guide or the API guide that you refer are also examples of technical writing.

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