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7 Things Nobody Told You About Technical Writing

Written by 
Jorge Rodriguez
,
Senior Technical Writer
7 Things Nobody Told You About Technical Writing
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Table of contents

The majority of people who are constantly following market trends in different industries and professions may have noticed a relatively recent rise in the need for technical writers. Some might have even participated in building the sector and constructing a solid career path for peers and newcomers. 

But where does it all come from? Why is technical writing suddenly so popular? Well, you will be surprised to know it isn't sudden. Technical writing has been around for a while and has marked a path for documenting technological creations. At the end of the day, making complicated information more digestible for readers is precisely our job. 

So today, we want to share with you some of the most interesting facts about this profession and its impact on the modern, widely technological landscape.

1. It's present in almost every industry

As a quick reminder, technical writing is the act of documenting in great detail all aspects of a specific subject and, in most cases, simplifying that subject to reach a broader audience. That said, technical writing pieces can be found in almost every product and industry if you go deep enough. Articles can range from simple instructions and ingredients to extensive user manuals and error-handling documentation. 

As the software development industry continues to grow, technical writers have also taken the stage in the IT environment to create documentation strategies that drive business growth by reducing customer service and problem-resolution costs with clear and comprehensive articles. Nowadays, it's much easier for users to look for answers online and read through their problems than to wait on the phone for hours for a non-practical response.

2. It's been around longer than you know

If you think about technical writing as an explanation of factual arguments using how, where, and when elements, it becomes a standard educational process rather than a specific profession. Therefore, it is present in history as early as Aristotle and a handful of other philosophers who went from thinking to sharing knowledge and instructions for other people to understand their concepts.

A more recent and established example of technical writing dates back to 1949 with the publication of a user manual for the BINAC computer by Joseph D. Chapline. From there on, technical writing becomes an unmissable requirement for every new product and creation that involves a high level of complexity. This is done to help companies connect with buyers during the configuration and installation of their products.

3. It's not just writing, and it's not just technical

The contribution of technical writers to different projects has broadened over the years, which allows experts to explore content management technologies, investigative resources, and research tools. Some writers work alongside software developers, documenting their process while using HTML, Markdown, CSS, and JavaScript technologies. Others collaborate with lawyers to develop contracts or with doctors to write about medical discoveries, medicine, and informative articles.

Nevertheless, every piece still requires the creative spark that helps it connect, educate, and engage with an audience simultaneously. This is achieved by a solid definition of the audience and great attention to detail. However, when simplifying subjects, it is also essential to begin from the assumption of complete ignorance of the concept to ensure a thorough explanation and significant content value.

4. It's a flexible yet demanding profession

In any case, writing is a gratifying experience for the authors. It allows them to control their schedules, peak productivity hours, and their overall writing calendar. However, technical writing is subject to internal elements like concentration, inspiration, mental blockages, and personal emotions, just like any other writing style. These elements can represent a significant challenge for writers who find themselves in fast-paced environments.

Writers must also reach a very high level of objectivity and detail, which requires connecting with an audience based solely on technical and impartial concepts. In other words, it may not be easy to build an engaging story just by using facts and taking out feelings, perspectives, and opinions.

5. Professional language expertise is not a requirement

Some people would argue that the involvement of writing would demand journalism or language expertise before anything else. Although it utilizes some journalistic techniques for interviews with subject matter experts and research and investigation, technical writers come from almost any industry and background that includes documentation as the primary source of communication. 

Because of the current technological revolution, a significant portion of writers come from computer science, engineering, and IT-related fields. However, if we look at areas like law, medicine, government, and science, we'll find a constituted association of technical writers for each one. These associations provide tools and resources to help standardize how writers create and manage their content.

6. It follows general writing rules with a strict factual focus

While technical writing does obey standard grammar rules for content construction as any other text, it is limited by the integrity of the content produced. Technical documentation is not considered as such unless there is a proven record of its accuracy. For this reason, very few creative writers will venture deep into technical writing. In their words, it takes away the imagination, invention, and fantasy elements that other writing styles can easily accept. 

Once the writer has defined the audience, subject, and expert interviews, in most cases, they will have to experiment with the content themselves to ensure its accuracy and functionality for possible future readers.

7. People do read technical documentation

Contrary to popular belief, technical writing is a widely used documentation strategy that most users could not go without reading. This is because many of our daily-use products go beyond common sense and require clear guidance to provide a positive user experience. Pieces like user manuals, configuration steps, and API documentation can help people understand the nature, purpose, and correct utilization of these products. 

On the other hand, a large percentage of technical documentation does not actually reach final users. Organizations produce documentation to elaborate on their internal processes, standardize quality requirements, and define operational indicators. Additionally, the IT industry, which is a big consumer of technical writing services, continuously supports and creates tools to enable technical writing operations that help software developers. This constant collaboration ensures a stable and powerful environment for the development and growth of this ancient profession.

So next time you hear the phrase, "Nobody ever reads that anyway," you will be able to argue that there are, in fact, thousands of people writing it and millions of others reading it.

Jorge Rodriguez
Written by
Jorge Rodriguez
Jorge Rodriguez

Jorge is a professional translator and technical writer with over 3 years of experience leading and supporting communication projects. He has substantial knowledge of various translation technologies, such as MemoQ. significant experience with document management and editing tools, including Microsoft Office Suite, Google Drive, and Adobe Acrobat DC, and is knowledgeable in the areas of professional translations and the creation of informative articles. He has worked to provide complete translation and writing solutions for small, medium, and large companies, using research strategies and always following general standards.

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