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Technical writing is any written form of writing or drafting "technical communication used in a variety of technical and occupational fields, such as "computer hardware and "software, "engineering, "chemistry, "aeronautics, "robotics, "finance, "medical, "consumer electronics, and "biotechnology. It encompasses the largest sub-field within technical communication.[1]

The "Society for Technical Communication defines "technical communication as any form of communication that exhibits one or more of the following characteristics: "(1) communicating about technical or specialized topics, such as computer applications, medical procedures, or environmental regulations; (2) communicating through printed documents or technology, such as web pages, help files, or social media sites; or (3) providing instructions about how to do something, regardless of the task's technical nature".[2]



Technical writing is performed by a "technical writer (or technical author) and is the process of writing and sharing information in a professional setting.[3]:4 A technical writer's primary task is to convey information to another person or party in the most clear and effective manner possible.[3]:4 The information that technical writers convey is often complex, and it is one of their main tasks to analyze the information and present it in a format that is easy to read and understand.[3]:12–14A good technical writer needs strong writing and communication skills. They do not only convey information through text, and must be proficient with computers as well. They use a wide range of programs to create and edit "illustrations, diagramming programs to create visual aids, and "document processors to design, create, and format documents.[4]

While commonly associated with online help and "user manuals, technical writing covers a wide range of genres and technologies. "Press releases, "memos, "business proposals, "datasheets, "product descriptions and "specifications, "white papers, "résumés, and "job applications are but a few examples of documents that are considered forms of technical writing.[5]


While technical writing has only been recognized as a profession since "World War II,[6]:2 its roots can be traced to "classical antiquity.[7]:233 Critics cite the works of writers like "Aristotle as the earliest forms of technical writing.[7]:234 "Geoffrey Chaucer's work, Treatise on the Astrolabe, is an early example of a "technical document and is considered to be the first technical document published in English.[8]

With the invention of the mechanical "printing press, the onset of the "Renaissance and the rise of the "Age of Reason, the need to document findings became a necessity, and inventors and scientists like "Isaac Newton and "Leonardo da Vinci prepared documents that chronicled their inventions and findings.[6]:1 While never called technical documents during their period of publication, these documents played a crucial role in developing modern forms of technical communication and writing.[6]

The field of technical communication grew during the "Industrial Revolution.[9]:3 This increased the need to instruct people how to use the more and more complex machines that were being invented and used.[9]:8 However, unlike the past, where skills were handed down through oral traditions, no one besides the inventors knew how to use these new devices. Writing thus became the fastest and most effective way to disseminate information, and writers who could document these devices were desired.[9]

During the 20th century, the need for technical writing skyrocketed, and the profession finally became officially recognized. The events of "World War I and "World War II led to advances in medicine, military hardware, computer technology, and aerospace technologies.[6]:2 This rapid growth, coupled with the urgency of war, created an immediate need for well-designed and written documents that chronicled the use of these technologies. Technical writing was in high demand during this time, and became an official job title during "World War II.[6]:1

Following "World War II, technological advances led to an increase in consumer goods and standards of living.[6]:3 During the post-war boom, public services like libraries and universities, as well as transport systems like buses and highways saw massive amounts of growth, and the need for writers to chronicle these processes increased.[6]:1 It was also during this period that computers started being used in large businesses and universities. Notably, in 1949, Joseph D. Chapline authored the first computational technical document, an instruction manual for the "BINAC computer.[10]

The discovery of the "transistor in 1947 allowed computers to be produced more cheaply than ever before.[6]:3 These cheaper prices meant that computers could now be purchased by individuals and small businesses.[6]:3 And as a result of the computer's growing prominence, the need for writers who could explain and document these devices grew.[6]:3 The profession of technical writing saw further expansion during the 1970s and 1980s as consumer electronics found their way into the homes of more and more people.[6]

In recent years, the prominence of computers in society has led to many advances in the field of digital communications, leading to many changes in the tools technical writers use.[6]:3 "Hypertext, "word processors, "graphics editing programs, and page layout software have made the creation of technical documents faster and easier than ever before, and technical writers of today must be proficient in these programs.[3]:8–9


Good technical writing is concise, focused, easy to understand, free of errors, and is audience-based.[11]:7 Technical writers focus on making their documents as clear as possible, avoiding overly technical phrases and stylistic choices like "passive voice and "nominalizations.[3]:236–245 Because technical documents are used in real-world situations, it should always be explicitly clear what the subject matter of a technical document is and what should be done with the presented information. It would be disastrous if, for example, a technical writer's instructions on how to use a high-powered X-ray machine were difficult to decipher.

Technical writing requires a writer to extensively examine their audience.[3]: 84–114 A technical writer needs to be aware of their audience's existing knowledge about the material they are discussing as the knowledge base of the writer's audience will determine the content and focus of a document.[3]: 84–114 For example, an evaluation report discussing a scientific study's findings that is written to a group of highly skilled scientists will be very differently constructed than one intended for the general public. Technical writers do not have to be "subject-matter experts (SMEs) themselves and generally collaborate with SMEs to complete tasks that require more knowledge about a subject than they possess.[3]:51

Technical writing must be accurate. A technical writer, after analyzing their audience, knows what they are trying to communicate. The goal from there is to convey the message in an accurate and ethical manner. Physical, environmental, or financial repercussions could result if a writer does this incorrectly. Knowing the audience is important to accuracy because the language will be tailored according to what they understand about the subject at hand. For example, instructions on how to correctly and safely build a bookshelf are included when purchased. Those instructions are constructed so that anyone could follow along, including accurate details as to where each fastener goes. If those instructions were inaccurate, the bookshelf could be unstable and fail.[12]

Document design and layout are also very important components of technical writing.[3]:261–286 Technical writers spend large amounts of time ensuring their documents are readable, because a poorly designed document hampers a reader's comprehension. Technical document design stresses proper usage of document design choices like bullet points, font-size, and bold text.[13] Images, diagrams, and videos are also commonly employed by technical writers because these media can often convey complex information, like a company's annual earnings or a product's design features, far more efficiently than text.[3]:306–307

Technical documents[edit]

Technical writing covers many genres and writing styles depending on the information and audience.[3]:84–114 Technical documents are not solely produced by technical writers. Almost anyone who works in a professional setting produces technical documents of some variety. Some examples of technical writing include:


The following tools are used by technical writers to author and present documents:

List of associations[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ What is Technical Communications? TechWhirl. Accessed December 9, 2014.
  2. ^ "Defining Technical Communication". Society for Technical Communication. Retrieved May 9, 2014. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p Mike Markel (2012). Technical Communication 10th Edition. Bedford/St. Martins. 
  4. ^ Johnson, Tom (December 19, 2011). "What Tools Do Technical Writers Use". I'd Rather Be Writing. Retrieved May 4, 2014. 
  5. ^ Perelman, Leslie C.; Barrett, Edward; Paradis James. "Document Types". The Mayfield Handbook of Technical & Scientific Writing. Retrieved May 4, 2014. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l O'Hara, Fredrick M. Jr. "A Brief History of Technical Communication" (PDF). Montana State University Billings. Retrieved April 22, 2014. 
  7. ^ a b Doody, Aude; Follinger, Sabine; Taub, Liba (February 8, 2012). "Structures and Strategies in Ancient Greek and Roman Technical Writing: An Introduction" (PDF). Studies in History and Philosophy of Science. University Of Cambridge. 43 (2). Archived from the original (PDF) on August 3, 2012. Retrieved April 22, 2014. 
  8. ^ "The Way to the Stars: Build Your Own Astrolabe". Saint John's College. Retrieved April 22, 2014. 
  9. ^ a b c Crabbe, Stephen (2012). "Constructing a Contextual History of English Language Technical Writing" (PDF). University of Portsmouth. Archived from the original (PDF) on May 12, 2014. Retrieved April 30, 2014. 
  10. ^ "History of Technical Writing". Proedit. Retrieved May 9, 2014. 
  11. ^ a b c d e f g h Tebeaux, Elizabeth; Dragga, Sam (2010). The Essentials of Technical Communication. Oxford University Press. 
  12. ^ Diane Martinez, et. al., "Technical Writing: A Comprehensive Resource of Technical Writers at All Levels."
  13. ^ Waller, Rob (April 2011). "What Makes a Good Document? The Criteria we use" (PDF). The University of Reading: 16–19. Retrieved May 4, 2014. 
  14. ^ Perelman, Leslie C., Barrett, Edward, and Paradis James. "Press jaylan peregrino". The Mayfield grave naba Handbook of Technical & Scientific Writing. Retrieved May 4, 2014.
  15. ^ Perelman, Leslie C., Barrett, Edward, and Paradis James. "Specifications." The Mayfield Handbook of Technical & Scientific Writing. Retrieved May 4, 2014.
  16. ^ "Dictionary and Thesaurus | Merriam-Webster". www.merriam-webster.com. Retrieved 2016-01-22. 
  17. ^ a b Anderson, Paul V. (2007). Technical Communication [A Reader-Centered Approach] 6th Edition. Thompson Wadsworth. 
  18. ^ Johnson, Tom "What Tools Do Technical Writers Use". I'd Rather Be Writing. December 19, 2011. Retrieved May 4, 2014.
  19. ^ "What is LyX". LyX. Retrieved May 9, 2014.
  20. ^ "Overview of Help Authoring Tools". HelpnDoc. retrieved May 7, 2014.
  21. ^ Hewitt, John (January 18, 2005). "How Technical Writer's use Microsoft Visio". Poe War. Archived from the original on May 12, 2014. Retrieved May 9, 2014. 
  22. ^ Brierley, Sean (2002). Screen Captures 102 (PDF). STC Carolina (Report). pp. 5–8. Retrieved May 9, 2014. 
  23. ^ Johnson, Tom (December 19, 2011). "What Tools Do Technical Writers Use". I'd Rather Be Writing. Retrieved May 4, 2014. 
  24. ^ "Home". www.comtec-italia.org. Retrieved 2016-03-24. 

External links[edit]

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