What Is Technical Writing?
What is technical writing, and how does it fit into your content marketing strategy? Businesses with specialized products and services typically need to hire technical writers to create customer-friendly documents.
One motivating factor for this is that you can reduce support costs and enhance the client experience through easy-to-follow guides and manuals.
Simplifying sophisticated concepts for audiences of different knowledge levels is a specialized task. Technical writers transform material often considered dry into engaging content that informs, attracts, and retains customers.
Technical writers apply their deep understanding to convey complex information to a defined audience. They write user guides, case studies, white papers, blogs, marketing materials, and other types of content.
Here’s everything you need to know to incorporate technical writing into your content marketing strategy, including where to hire technical writers and the types of content they generally create.
Technical Writing vs. Business Writing
What distinguishes technical writing from business writing? Technical writing is a subset of business writing focused on tech products, services, information, and ideas.
This type of writing is unique because the writer needs specialized knowledge of the industry, product, or service they are writing about. So, technical content tends to be a lot more hands-on than general business writing.
A technical writer needs a comprehensive knowledge of the tech. They should be able to speak to what it does, its applications, how to leverage its features and benefits, and how to avoid common pitfalls in use or implementation.
The job of the technical writer is to ensure that less technical readers understand the information. This requires savvy translation and communication skills.
Technical Writing Examples
Marketers often ask, “What is technical writing, exactly?” Here are some specific examples of technical writing:
- User guides and manuals
- Installation guides
- Troubleshooting guides
- FAQ sections
- API documentation
- White papers
- Case studies
- Technical reports
- Technical specifications
- Design documents
- Test reports
- Training materials
- Online help systems
- Journal articles
- Research papers
- Grant proposals
- Medical package inserts
- Patient information leaflets
- Informed consent forms
- Product descriptions
- Service level agreements
- Standard operating procedures
- Annual reports
- Business plans
- Marketing materials for specialized and technical content
- E-learning content
Below is a deeper look at a selection of these content formats. The ones most relevant for your business will depend on your industry and products.
User Guide and Manuals
The most recognized form of technical writing, user guides and manuals provide step-by-step instructions on effectively using a product. From smartphones and coffee machines to software applications, well-crafted user guides and manuals increase customer satisfaction and reduce customer care inquiries.
An FAQ section provides a buffer that protects customer care from some of the most common user questions. Technical writers can help companies organize these sections to address customer concerns and provide straightforward answers that help users troubleshoot or understand a product or service.
For software developers, API documentation offers guidelines on effectively using and integrating with a software’s application programming interface. This documentation facilitates seamless interaction between software components, helping developers create robust and efficient applications.
White papers are in-depth reports on specific topics, often used in the tech and business sectors. They provide a detailed analysis and present findings, often proposing solutions to a particular problem.
Technical reports comprehensively account for a particular research or project, detailing the methodology, findings, and conclusions. These reports simplify and organize complex ideas so others can understand the discovery and follow the project or experiment’s progress.
Online Help Systems
Online help systems are embedded within software applications to guide users through installation and operation. Whether through tooltips, pop-up windows, or interactive guides, these systems provide real-time assistance, making the user experience smoother and more intuitive.
Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)
A cornerstone in industries like manufacturing and healthcare, SOPs provide detailed instructions on performing specific tasks or operations to ensure consistency and safety. They meticulously outline the steps for specific tasks or operations, so workers know what to do.
While distinct in its purpose and format, each document shares the common goal of making complex information understandable and actionable for its target audience. Whether you’re a consumer, a professional, or a tech enthusiast, technical writing makes it easier to use the products and services in your business and life.
Skills To Look for in Technical Writers
Technical writing is a specialized field. The right writer needs the technical knowledge to understand your product, software, or service, plus the communication skills to translate that information into an audience-appropriate document.
Here are the skills you want to see when you hire technical writers.
- Technical knowledge
- Audience insight
- Digital tools
- Critical thinking
A good technical writer needs to convert technical information into simple, readable, and error-free content for readers. They should provide samples with the correct style, tone, and format for your specific technical documents.
Research skills are essential to solid technical writing. Technical fields evolve constantly, and each audience needs to be addressed according to their understanding and perspectives. Skilled technical writers have strong research skills.
Many technical writers have a passion for technology or have worked in the field before becoming writers. A sound understanding of the underpinnings of the systems or concepts they write about allows them to craft easy-to-read documents that consumers and others can digest.
Technical writing often involves collaboration. For example, if they are writing a guidebook or user manual, they may collaborate with the development and marketing teams during the project. In addition to being skilled writers, they need communication, listening, planning, and organizational skills to collaborate effectively.
Understanding the audience and tailoring the document to their level of understanding and skill is essential to effective technical writing. Writers must demonstrate an ability to identify what the target audience wants to know and deliver accordingly.
Technical writers use digital tools to create and deliver user-friendly documentation. Some of the top tools include:
- Word processing software
- Version control software, such as Git or SVN (Apache Subversion)
- Documentation generation software, such as Document 360 or Adobe FrameMaker
- Screenshot and screen recording software
- Image editing software
- Collaboration tools
Using the right digital tools allows technical writers to create, track, deliver, and update documentation.
Empathy allows a technical writer to convey information that resonates with readers. This ability to see from the reader’s perspective helps them craft informative, user-friendly, and relatable content. This human touch can make technical documents more accessible, reducing user frustration and enhancing user experience.
Technical writers often encounter complex topics that require a deep understanding and the ability to distill them into straightforward, concise, and coherent content. This requires them to analyze information, determine its relevance, and present it logically and systematically. Critical thinking helps them organize and deliver information so it’s easy for the target audience to comprehend.
How To Hire Technical Writers
Hiring a technical writer is about more than finding someone who can write. You need a professional who can translate complex technical jargon into understandable content. Here are insights to help you hire technical writers.
Types of Technical Writers
The first step in hiring technical writers is identifying the type you need. In addition to the categories below, technical writers are classified by level of experience, area of expertise, and type of projects they work on.
Some technical writers may specialize in writing documentation for a particular industry, such as healthcare or SaaS. Others may specialize in writing a specific type of documentation, such as user guides, marketing materials, or white papers.
Most companies find technical writers with knowledge of their industry. Other project-based specialties include:
- Software writers create user guides, installation guides, and reference manuals.
- Hardware writers draft user manuals, assembly instructions, and service manuals.
- Medical writers write package inserts, patient information leaflets, and informed consent forms.
- Scientific writers develop journal articles, research papers, and grant proposals.
- Engineering writers create technical specifications, design documents, and test reports.
- Web writers craft documentation for websites and web applications, such as user guides, help documentation, and training materials.
- Information developers write user guides, white papers, and case studies.
- Technical trainers develop and deliver training programs.
By creating clear, concise, and accurate documentation, technical writers help customers use your products and services effectively, reducing support costs and improving customer satisfaction.
How To Find Technical Writers
Finding the right specialized talent can feel like searching for a needle in a haystack. Aside from the most obvious avenue of posting a job online, here are several ways to connect with writers with the requisite skills and who align with your organization.
Whether you need a full-time staff member or a few projects a month, experienced freelancers with portfolio projects in your industry can be a great place to find the expertise you need. Freelancers may cost more per project, but they come with flexibility. You may develop a relationship and hire them full-time or work with a freelancer while searching for someone who wants employment.
Look for Current Employees With Strong Writing Skills
If you have people in-house with technical expertise and strong writing skills, ask if they want to add technical writing to their repertoire. You can nurture them with the training they need to transition to a technical writer position.
Work With a Content Writing Agency
The most straightforward way to find outstanding technical writers is to work with a content-writing agency that has already vetted them, like ContentWriters. You can have the work you want done at any scale you need. Account managers will oversee the process and manage the writers and editors for you.
Technical Writing Plays a Vital Role
Technical writing is a specialized skill requiring technical knowledge and well-developed communication skills. At its core, it’s about conveying complex information in a clear, concise, and accessible manner.
Writers with the right balance of audience insight, industry knowledge, and writing experience aren’t always easy to find. If your business needs technical writers, we can help.
Our hand-picked writers are specialized experts in their fields. When you work with us, you gain more than access to a writer. Your point of contact is an account manager who guides you through each step of the process. An editor and a proofreader review each project, and revisions are always included.
Whether you need a single technical document or several each week, we have the expertise and capacity to meet your needs. Connect with our team today and get started.
This article was originally published on June 30, 2020, and was updated on November 8, 2023.
Joan Weisman’s strong research skills, SEO knowledge, adaptability of style and voice, and passion for staying current make her an asset for freelance web content, SEO, and copywriting.