The aim of technical writing is to translate scientific and technical information in a way that is clear and easy to understand. The specific information conveyed should be helpful to the reader. Technical writing is a form of writing that is extensively used to prepare manuals, description of new electronic products, instructions on how to operate a particular machine, etc. A technical writer is often asked to create a documentation for a technology. The documentation must clearly explain how to install and use that technology.
Technical writing is different from usual essay writing. People often confuse technical writing with essay and creative writing. However, these are totally different styles of writing. Use of flowery words, double meaning innuendos and explaining the same thing in a different way is often found in essays. On the other hand, technical write ups are precise and essentially focus on the subject, which is explained in the most convincing manner. Yet the data is concise and the language used is straightforward.
This profession, as many think, is not about writing a bunch of technical words. Nowadays, technical writing is used in diverse fields including robotics, chemistry, software and others. An educational textbook on subjects like physics or biology is also a form of technical writing. In order to become a successful technical writer, one must know the characteristics of technical writing. They are as follows:
It is essential that the technical writer understands the reader's background and needs. Making the documentation too technical can confuse the reader. The document is meaningless if the intended audience does not understand what the writer wants to communicate. Writers who are well aware of their audiences are in a position to give a solution to their problems. The profession of technical writing demands simplicity of language and clarity of expression. One must avoid unnecessary words that may put the readers in a quandary. The written document must be clear and concise so that the text becomes easier to grasp and understand.
Electronic products such as digital cameras or VCRs often come with manuals that tell how to operate it. As the customers may come from a non-technical background, care must be taken that the manual is not difficult to understand. Certain key concepts to operate the product must be explained as easily as possible for the targeted readers. If you use pure jargon, the customer will possibly never know what you want to say. Explaining the product in layman's terms is absolutely necessary. Good technical writing conveys ideas in the most effective manner. A well-written technical document always contains answers to anticipated problems in the product or application. This aspect of technical writing is commonly seen in articles that are related to troubleshooting a particular software or product.
Accuracy is an important characteristic of any technical document. A slight mistake can have grave consequences. For instance, if you forget to mention some important features of a new mobile phone, the customers may think that there is nothing special in that phone and will not prefer to buy it. Effective communication requires quality content and language that is accurate and readable. Technical writing does not mean that you translate information unquestioningly. In this profession, one must know for whom the document is being written and whether it is accurate.
The grammatical structure of your technical document should be correct and free from any kind of ambiguities. The intended meaning will not be communicated to the reader if the document has ambiguous sentences. The reader is sure to get annoyed, if your document is replete with misspellings and incorrect construction of sentences. Hence, apart from providing correct technical information, ensure that the data is grammatically correct.
The way you present your technical data is also very important from the user's point of view. For instance, suppose you have explained complex technical data in the most simple manner, yet it won't hold the attention of the user if it is presented as one big paragraph. The point is, you go to be creative when it comes to formatting your technical data. Your technical data must be divided into sub heads. If it is an instruction manual, then instead of sub heading go for bulleted format. However, if the sequence of instructions holds priority, one should go for numbered list. Key points pertaining to precautions or warnings may be emphasized using bullets. A document presented in a well-organized manner is very easy to read and the important data that the user is looking for is available at a glance. To make data easily accessible, one can give technical specification of any product in a tabular form. You also need to complement your descriptive technical data with a graphic image of the product in focus. This is visually appealing and will definitely arrest the attention of the most casual viewer.
For technical articles to be effective, it is essential to implement the aforementioned characteristics of technical writing. If you follow the above guidelines, the users will definitely appreciate your technical manuals.