What is Technical Writing and the 5 Ways it Makes Complex Topics Helpful

person technical writing in notebook and holding coffee cup

Definition

Similar to how it sounds, technical writing is explaining specific, complicated concepts in text. Many engineers, scientists, and other masters of technology do their own technical writing, but sometimes they are too busy to write out 20-page explanations. Thus, they send their work on to a technical writer.

What does Technical Writing have to do with me?

First, the elements of technical design makes writing overall more effective and clearer. This includes making well-written and designed emails, presentation slides, reports, memos, websites, articles, etc. that people will actually read and understand. They can scan for the information they need over the course of the project (or longer).

Knowing the elements of technical design will aid you in reading all of the above as well. Once you understand how the document is supposed to be organized and for whom, you should know where the common places the information is most likely to be.

Elements

Collaboration

There are five ways they make the complex information easy to find and understand. The first is they collaborate with the original author (engineer, scientist, etc.) to make sure they understand the topic and how the information applies to it. They also check definitions of words and items that may be unfamiliar to them. The writer also asks what the main audience and use of this information is going to be.

Research 

The next step is research. Writers and editors need to research topics and information not only to fully understand it but also to ensure the accuracy of it. Usually, this requires looking-up existing information, articles, and collecting data; consulting with experts; using logic to put facts together; prioritizing some information over others; and factchecking all sources for accuracy and precision. 

Analysis

To organize the information, the writer also analyzes it to put subtopics with like subtopics. This is also necessary for making bulleted lists and helpful headings for the reader. Overall, this takes critical-thinking about the information and data, creativity of how to display it (sometimes taking out-of-the-box thinking), and reasoning skills to make the best, accurate arguments based on both old information and new data.

Usability

Next, the writer makes sure that the document is easy to use for the target audience in the situation that the readers will be using it in. For example, if the document is an instruction manual for putting together a large piece of machinery, the manual should have clear, easy to read steps and be able to be read using only one hand. Writers do this by making the paragraph shorter, explaining any jargon, using bulleted lists and headings, bolding keywords and sentences, and using warning signs like exclamation points or red triangles to emphasize warnings or dangers.

Design

Finally, the writer makes the document as appealing to look at as possible. As some topics are heavy and complicated no matter how it is organized, sometimes making an article about it is near impossible. What the writer can do is add clear visual aids like graphics or pictures to emphasize specific info or present it in a new way. Additionally, the writer organizes the information in a user-friendly layout so that users can find the information they need easily by scanning the document.

Summary

Technical writing explains and clarifies complex information and data in written text for a specific audience(s). This is done through collaboration, research, analysis, usability, and design. The US government ensures that documents are written in ‘plain-language‘ and are understandable by consumers. To make information clearer and easy to find, it is critical to understand the elements of technical writing and use it in both business and daily life.

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