What Is the Goal of Technical Writing?

The primary goal of technical writing is to make the complex language sound simple. With this type of writing, you're assuming the reader has no knowledge of the subject or only a basic understanding of it. For example, everyone understands what a camera is and most people know how to use the basics, like point and click. However, operating a specific model with its own set of features necessitates more than just knowing how to turn it on and off and take pictures in auto mode. In this article, we will look in detail at what the ultimate goal of technical writing is, what technical writers do, how much they make, and how you become one.

Key Takeaways

The primary goal of technical writing is to make the complex language sound simple. With this type of writing, you're assuming the reader has no knowledge of the subject or only a basic understanding of it. For example, everyone understands what a camera is and most people know how to use the basics, like point and click. However, operating a specific model with its own set of features necessitates more than just knowing how to turn it on and off and take pictures in auto mode. In this article, we will look in detail at what the ultimate goal of technical writing is, what technical writers do, how much they make, and how you become one.

Technical writing is a type of writing which focuses on a specific topic that requires direction, instruction, or explanation. This writing style serves a specific purpose and thus differs greatly from other types of writing, such as creative writing, academic writing, or business writing.

Design documentation, user guides, reference and installation manuals, help desk sheets, tutorials, online documentation, and similar technical content are all examples of technical writing.

As a result, technical writing is essential in a wide range of businesses and industries. Without it, complex topics and procedures would be difficult – if not impossible – to comprehend and carry out by common people.

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To recognize the significance of technical writing in your own business or industry, you must first understand what technical writing is, as well as its unique characteristics, different types, basic principles, and more. 

In this comprehensive guide to learning everything there is to know about the subject, we ask the question: what is technical writing and what are its goals? Going through our guide you'll be an expert on the subject in no time.

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What is the goal of technical writing?

Technical writing is a multifaceted skill. It can be used in a variety of ways. Many industries rely on Technical Writers to market their products and services. There are also different types and applications of Technical Writing in various fields of operation. 

As we discussed earlier, every type of writing serves a purpose. Some forms of writing are designed to tell a story, while others are designed to express opinions. Technical writing is not intended to serve either of these functions. 

The primary goal of technical writing is to convey complex information to readers in a way that they can understand and apply, even if they have no prior knowledge of the subject.

Technical writing explains how to use a specific object or how to complete a task or project. It is intended for readers seeking information on a specific topic, such as how to use a smartphone, or to provide detailed specifications on how to write this blog effectively.

Technical writing must be clear, concise, and simple for the target audience to follow, understand, and act on. These are essential elements of effective technical writing.

What is your role as a technical writer?

A technical writer's role is determined by their area of expertise and whether they work for a company or as an independent freelancer. Technical writers essentially act as a liaison between a company's technical staff and the end user. 

They usually have to interact with multiple teams in order to understand the project well enough to write about it. This necessitates that technical writers become accomplished communicators. 

In a way, they work as translators, ensuring that difficult technical information is accessible to the intended end user in an easily understandable form. It is frequently their responsibility to bring together multiple stakeholders on a project. 

Other than writing, they spend a lot of time researching, preparing, and reviewing their work.

What helps to distinguish technical writing from other types of writing?

The tone and purpose of technical writing are distinct. It differs from other types of writing such as journalism, creative writing, academic writing, and business writing in tone and purpose.

Technical writing is frequently compared to and confused with business writing. This is due to the fact that it covers many of the same topics. While the two have some similarities, business writing is a broader category. Technical writing is a subset of business writing, or rather a specific type of business writing.

The goal of both business and technical writing is to be easily understood. Technical writing, however, is solely concerned with conveying information, whereas business writing can vary in style and tone. 

Business writing, for example, can be persuasive, such as when attempting to sway someone toward your point of view. The goal of technical writing is always to be objective. 

Technical writers do not attempt to persuade you to buy a specific laptop, for example. Instead, they focus on teaching you how to use one.

You may also want to read this blog that focuses on explaining the difference between technical writing and business writing.

What are the characteristics of technical writing?

If you are confused don’t worry, this section will highlight key characteristics of a technical written document so you can clearly identify it when you see one.

Technical writing has some distinguishing features that set it apart from all other types of writing and they are:

1. Problem-solving

Because the primary goal of technical writing is to solve problems, each document is written with this goal in mind. These texts are used by readers to learn how to complete specific tasks or to obtain technical information. 

As a result, they are organized in such a way that they can be easily referred to when problems arise. For example, a how-to guide for troubleshooting problems with your printer.

2. Precise

Technical writing terminology is always very specific in order to precisely describe objects and processes.

3. Clearly written

Technical writing conveys information in a clear and concise manner, with little room for interpretation. As a result, it employs concise and unambiguous language.

4.Well structured

This writing style must have a clear structure that allows readers to easily follow along. This is due to the fact that readers rely on technical documents for step-by-step instructions.

5. Simple to understand

Effective technical writers avoid using complicated words, jargon, and slang that readers may not understand and instead choose to write in a simple, understandable tone.

6. Straightforward

It conveys information in a straightforward and to-the-point manner, without the use of creative writing techniques.

7. Denotative

This simply means that the literal definition of words is central to technical writing. It helps to avoid misunderstandings caused by the many different connotations—or suggestions—of words.

8. Elaborate

Technical writing is extremely detailed and informative, with no room for interpretation. A textbook is an excellent example of technical writing because textbooks often provide the most complete and factual overview of a topic.

9. Skimmability

Technical documents are written with 'Skimmability' in mind, so audiences can simply scan the entire text to obtain the information they require. Technical writers include descriptive headings as well as a detailed table of contents and/or index.

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What are some examples of technical writing?

Depending on the kind of documentation being written, there are different types of technical writing that can take place. We have put together a list and a short explanation of each important example. For an exhaustive list of all types of technical documents you can visit TechWhirl:

1. End-user instructions

When you purchase software, install a computer component, or purchase a digital device or consumer appliance, it comes with an instruction manual that explains how to use it. 

These are known as end-user instructions, but they also include documents such as troubleshooting guides, assembly instructions, "dos and don'ts" lists, warranty details, and legal disclaimers.

The writers must analyze this highly technical information and convey it in a user-friendly language that a wide audience can understand. 

Because this type of technical writing is intended for a specific audience, the writer must be aware of the reader's level of expertise as well as have extensive knowledge of the subject matter. 

Examples include the user manual for your home theater system or the assembly instructions for a modular cabinet.

2. Technical papers

In addition to instructions and advice, many products provide information on the product's origin, development, or structural or operational modifications. 

Technical writers organize and edit information to ensure clarity and accuracy in these documents.

3. Corporate reports and feasibility studies

A writer conducts extensive research for feasibility studies and corporate reports, such as a company's financial reports. This information must then be presented in such a way that it is easily understood by every level of employee, executive, or shareholder. 

As a result, visual aids such as graphs or charts are frequently included within these reports and studies — particularly when discussing finance, timelines, and social or business practicality.

4. Case studies

Case studies are in-depth written analyses of real-world events. They may focus on individuals, groups, organizations, medical studies, business decisions, or the long-term study of a specific organization or individual subject. 

They seek patterns in data about the subject, which they then use to make assumptions and detect trends. Case studies are common in scientific publications, but they can also be found in business and industry.

5. Research findings

Documents detailing relevant laboratory findings or other types of studies like surveys are frequently included in medical, pharmaceutical, and political research reports and documents. 

Because this type of technical writing typically includes information on medication combinations, side effects, policy making, and other critical issues that directly impact human life or impact key decision making, extreme care must be taken.

6. Procedures and policies

To manage their organization, businesses of all sizes require guidelines outlining their policies and procedures. 

A good example is an organization’s employee handbook which helps protect the company from lawsuits from employees who claim they were unaware of certain rules and regulations.

7. White papers

White papers are documents created by a company for an external audience to assist them in making decisions and solving relevant problems. 

They are used in a variety of industries and businesses to discuss a problem and recommend a specific solution, product, technology, or procedure. For example, I recently read an excellent white paper on renewable energy sources, their application, and their benefits.

8. Proposals

Proposals are written with the intention of informing an individual or a group to take effective action. A proposal is commonly required when applying for grants, undertaking projects, or purchasing products. 

Proposals are also required when considering improvements to an organization, product, process, or service.

Because a proposal must be extremely persuasive, it must be written with the intended audience in mind. The writer must also identify the situation and outline the recommended course of action while still being completely objective.

9. Business strategies and plans

Financial institutions require a detailed business plan before granting loans to new or established businesses. 

These documents necessitate extensive technical research and comprehension of a company's finances and operations, including spending forecasts, potential losses, and profit margins, as well as competitive analysis, marketing practices, and detailed background information on the owner's professional history and financial health.

10. Literature reviews

A literature review can be used separately or as part of a larger report. It's a type of technical writing that summarizes what's known about a particular subject. 

Literature reviews summarize and explain prior research and discoveries on a topic, highlighting research milestones, contradictory results, and what more research is needed to advance knowledge on the issue.

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Photo by Vlada Karpovich

Important Unmudl tips for Technical Writing

Following these key tips can lead to excellent professional-level technical writing, regardless of the type of technical documentation being produced:

1. Understand your target audience

An expert in that field will understand certain abbreviations, acronyms, and slang that are directly applicable to the topic. 

But because someone with less experience or limited knowledge of that industry will not understand the information as well, every detail must be simplified, clarified, and laid out for them.

2. Use a neutral tone

Write in the third person, as if you were a teacher instructing a student. In technical writing, personal opinions should be avoided.

To ensure that the reader understands the process or instructions, the writing should be direct, to the point, and as simple as possible — whether it's a simple list of tasks to accomplish a goal or a detailed explanation of an idea or abstract concept.

3. Conduct extensive research

Collect information from various sources, analyze the data so that it is thoroughly understood, and then present the information in an easy-to-understand format to instruct those who read it. 

The more inexperienced your audience, the more information you must gather and analyze.

4. Be thorough

Be detailed in your description and include enough information to convey your points; however, consider word efficiency to avoid boring your reader with unnecessary material.

A technical writer should be able to simplify a difficult process and explain a complicated piece of information professionally and effectively if they follow our tips.

How to become a technical writer

Did you know that technical writers can earn up to $74,650 per year, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics? Besides that, the career has some of the most promising job prospects for the coming decade with 12 percent growth between 2020 and 2030, faster than the average for all occupations.

A bachelor's degree in English, communications, or journalism is highly recommended for a technical writer. Some technical writers may be expected to have a specific technical background or work experience with technology companies. 

Since we frequently get asked if technical writing is hard in college, we have a dedicated article discussing the subject.

Coming back to Technical writers, they may also be required to have knowledge of specific computer languages as well as the ability to use a variety of word-processing, layout, and graphics tools for both print and online documents.

We highly recommend either of these two courses that can earn you a certificate in technical writing, greatly boosting your employment and promotion prospects in the industry.

  1. Technical Writing course from Pima Community College
  2. Technical Writing course from Tombolo Institute at Bellevue College

You may also want to read our special guide on how to get into technical writing with a certificate.

Final thoughts

Technical writing has existed since written languages were invented, but its popularity is growing fast — especially in our rapidly advancing era of telecommunications. The practice shows no signs of slowing down and will remain an important part of our lives for decades to come.

Technical writing, as we discussed, simplifies the complex. It enables certain ideas, theories, practices, or procedures to be communicated in an understandable or conceivable manner.

As a result, it is extremely relevant to any business or industry that uses technical documentation, end-user instructions, technical reports, feasibility studies and corporate reports, research results, policies and procedures, business plans, white papers, case studies, literature reviews, proposals, and other similar tools.

In this article, we looked at the goals of technical writing and its features and characteristics. We hope this information has been useful to you in your career development.

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