A technical writer is a person who creates documentation for a technology. They are responsible for writing text that is accurate, readable, accessible, and helpful to its intended audience. Technical writing, a subset of technical communication, is used in fields as diverse as chemistry, the aerospace industry, robotics, consumer electronic products such as VCRs or digital cameras, biotechnology, software, computer hardware, and many others.
At the beginning of a project, the technical writer identifies the audience for the documentation. For example, if documenting a VCR, the writer must determine whether the audience is a nontechnical American of average literacy who needs to know how to set the time and tape television shows, or a technician who must diagnose, repair, or replace internal components.
Technical writers often have a degree in English, technical writing, the technical field for which they are writing, or a combination of these. It is most important that they have enough expertise to understand their audience's background and needs. For example, writers who develop documentation for software APIs, microcontroller operation, and other technical subjects are often paid more than those who write guides for a nontechnical audience (for example, how to use email), because it is difficult to find good writers with advanced technical knowledge.
After the documentation is written, using a desktop publishing tool or a help authoring tool, it is normally reviewed for accuracy by one or more "subject matter experts" (SMEs).
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article Technical Writing.
Technical communication is the process of conveying information about technology to an intended audience. A technical communicator is a person whose job involves technical communication. Technical communication jobs include the following:
User interface designer
The technology can be of any kind, including the sciences, high technology including computers and software, consumer electronics, and so on.
Technical communications are created and distributed by most employees in service organizations today, especially by professional staff and management. Writing well is difficult and time-consuming, and writing in a technical way and about technical subjects compounds the difficulties. The entire point of communications is to disseminate useful information. To be useful, information must be understood and acted upon. Fortunately, tools and techniques are available to make writing more accessible and easy to understand.
Effective communications require quality content, language, format, and more. The entire point of communications is to disseminate information; this is where written content comes in. To present the appropriate content, it is imperative to understand one’s audience and writing purpose. If a document does not communicate the information that the writer intends and what he or she wants the reader to understand, then the communication is meaningless.
The writer has a self-interest in making the extra effort: Looking credible is as important as being credible and getting results in business. Respect and credibility of the writer/speaker are integral to effective communications. Readers will not trust the information from an author if they do not believe that author is a valuable source of information or the purveyor of worthwhile ideas. Furthermore, being respected is essential to being persuasive, a key ingredient in business.
A document is a writing that contains information.
Traditionally, the medium of a document was paper and the information was applied to it as ink either by hand (to make a hand-written document) or by a mechanical process (such as a printing press or a laser printer).
Through time, documents have also been written with ink on papyrus (starting in ancient Egypt) or parchment, scratched as runes on stone using a sharp apparatus, stamped or cut into clay and baked to make clay tablets (i.e. in Sumerian and Mesopotamic civilisations). Paper, papyrus or parchment might be rolled up as scrolls or cut into sheets and bound into books. Stacks of clay tablets might also be thought of as books. Small documents might also be stapled.
Today, electronic means for storing and displaying documents are also popular; a variety of computers and displays can be used, for example:
a desktop computer with a monitor
a Personal Digital Assistant
refreshable electronic paper
Documents in all forms are frequently found to be material evidence in criminal and civil proceedings. The forensic analysis of such a document falls under the scope of questioned document examination.
A “Technical” Approach to Writing
HOW one writes is as important as WHAT one writes. So, language itself is important to enable readers to understand and believe the written text. Language impacts a reader’s ability to comprehend and assimilate what a writer is presenting.
Furthermore, people can, and do, judge things by outward appearances all the time, it is essential to make good impressions when communicating in a business setting. When one communicates (whether writing, giving a speech, or talking on the phone) information must be presented effectively and to a large degree, attractively.
These elements strongly affect perceived writer and organizational credibility and professionalism -- highly sought after commodities for individual and organizational success.
Format, organization, and style are important in that they make information available, accessible, and readable. Format and the like are the “how” of a written presentation. Format choices can give a document the highly sought after technical or business “look” organizations hope for. In essence, this is part of “corporate identity” promotion.
There are many definitions of technical writing. It is seen as its own species of business writing.
Technical writing is a specialized, structured WAY of writing, where information is PRESENTED in a format and manner that best suits the cognitive and psychological needs of the readers, so they can respond to a document as its author intended and achieve the purpose related to that document.
Thus, it is writing formatted and shaped to make reading as simple, poignant, unequivocal, and enjoyable as possible (i.e., “user friendly”). It so happens that most technical writing positions are still primarily offered to those who can write effective end-user manuals, system design documents, Web sites, and the like for engineering and IT firms.
A good technical writer can write about a complicated technical subject or task in ways that almost anyone can understand.
Precision in technical writing tends to be critical because if anything is described incorrectly, readers may act improperly on what is said, causing mistakes and problems at work.
The Society for Technical Communication is probably the premier technical writing association. STC defines technical communication as “The process of gathering information from experts and presenting it to an audience in a clear, easily understandable form.” I think this is a good, all-purpose definition. “Technical writing and editing is an umbrella term for any sort of professional communication. It’s the interface between your ideas and the rest of the world”.
“Technical writing is the presentation of information that helps the reader solve a particular problem. Technical communicators write, design, and/or edit proposals, manuals, web pages, lab reports, newsletters, and many other kinds of professional documents.”
Answered By: doable_rods - 6/20/2006