Technical writing definition
Here’s a big, big truth about the evolution of marketing:
It’s becoming more technical. Much more technical than it was just a few years ago.
It’s no longer enough for marketers to be creative. Heck, it’s not even enough to have all the essential marketing skills. The kind of marketing that makes the cut today is incredibly data-driven, technology-focused, and—dare we say?—devoid of fluff.
Think we’re kidding?
Well, 40% of brands are already planning to increase their data-driven marketing budgets.
These brands are suddenly realizing that for their marketing content to have the desired impact, it’s got to be more concise and less cobwebby, more technical, and less “story-ish.” It’s got to convey the intended message in the quickest, most convenient way possible.
As a savvy, forward-thinking marketer, you’re probably wondering how you can keep up with this new wave of change.
Do you have to overhaul all of your marketing tactics just to be more “technical”? Should you ditch your marketing strategy and adopt one that’s more “data-driven”?
Good news: you don’t have to!
But there is one thing you can do. One thing that’ll change the fortunes of your marketing efforts—and it won’t even cost you an arm and a leg.
Learn the nuances of technical writing. Yup, that’s it.
In other words, endeavor to become an incredibly good marketer-cum-technical writer. That way, you won’t just lace your marketing content with hearsay stories. You’ll write good, solid content that’s meaty, easy-to-understand, and backed by indisputable numbers and facts.
Sounds like a plan, right?
Now, do yourself (and your marketing strategy) a favor and read on.
Technical Writing: What It Means to Write With Direction and Purpose
Every industry uses its own set of words, words that are carefully chosen and curated to fit the subject matter. Some of these words are easy to internalize. Others are next-level difficult and incredibly hard to understand at first sight.
That’s not even the worst part. Some of these words are actually too jarring for the end-user. Upon glancing at such words, the customer can’t be bothered to reaed past the first sentence—they simply swipe left or bin the document altogether.
And let’s face it, that’s every marketer’s worst nightmare.
So how do you get your point across without all the industry jargon and complex wording?
Become a technical writer!
A technical writer is the rarest and, indeed, the most valuable breed in the marketing world. But to understand what technical writers do, you’ve got to wrap your head around the concept of technical writing first.
Technical writing is all about presenting technical information in the simplest, most accessible way possible. It’s about tearing down the jargon and uplifting plain English. It’s about creating digestible content with a clear purpose.
Not too long ago, technical writing was limited to user manuals. But things have changed. Today, you can find technical writers almost everywhere—churning out long-form content like instruction manuals or whipping up short-form content like memos.
As for the subject matter, technical writing encompasses both the tangible and intangible. You can use it to document physical things that can be felt and touched, like how to set up a TV set, or abstract things, like how to use Welcome for marketing orchestration.
Examples of technical writing include:
- Case studies
- Executive summary
- White paper
- Report writing
- Step-by-step instruction manuals
- Installation guides
- User manuals
- Web pages
- Video tutorials and webinars
And many, many more.
Style Guide for Technical Writing: What Makes Content More “Technical”?
You’ve got to understand the ins and outs of this writing style if you truly want to break new ground with your content. Good technical writing is:
1. Simple, Clear, and Concise
Ugh, the dreaded jargon. Technical writing does its best to distance itself from jargon and keeps everything super simple. From the headings, to the paragraphs, to the conclusion, everything is clutter-free and written in plain English.
The writing itself is short, concise, and straightforward. Doubt us? Why don’t you revisit your good ol’ air conditioner user manual and see for yourself?
There’s no room for mistakes or ambiguity in technical writing. Every single word, every single sentence, is well-thought-out and error-free.
3. Objective and Fact-Based
Like we mentioned earlier, technical writing takes data attribution seriously. It’s based on hard facts and solid, credible data.
3 out of every 4 marketing leaders surveyed by Gartner in 2018 said they base their decisions on data analytics—the very analytics that forms the gist of technical writing.
This only means one thing: technical writers are bound to be hot cakes in the marketing world.
And the numbers don’t lie. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there’ll be 5,500 new openings for technical writers every year for the next decade.
4. Tailored to the Audience
Technical writers don’t just write on a whim. They write with their audience in mind. Word-by-word, line-by-line, they pull in the end-user in a way no other writing style can.
5. Considerate of Design Issues
Different document types need different design approaches to make the content appealing and readable. Technical writing is perfect for such a task.
To break up the technical content and ultimately make it easier to read, the writer will most likely use headings, bullet points, numbered lists, and the like.
They’ll then use illustrations, such as graphs and pictures, to give the document design a little more “warmth.” A little more color. A little more finesse.
After all, they’re presenting some complex information in there. The more attractive the documentation, the higher the chances of the not-so-engaging content being read.
Now that you know a thing or two about this writing style, let’s dive even deeper and look at the skill set required (we promise, it’s nothing you can’t handle,!)
Must-Have Skills for Technical Writers: The What and the What Not
If you want to be a technical writer, you’ll need a specific skill set that allows you to break down complex information into consumable, easy-to-understand content.
Technical writing skills can vary, depending on the subject matter and industry, but they ultimately encompass the following:
1. Excellent Research Skills
Admittedly, writing technical documentation can tough, especially if you’re not an expert in the subject matter. Only after hours of thorough research can you gather enough information on the given field to start writing.
That said, research shouldn’t be treated as an afterthought, but rather, as a top priority.
Besides, doing research is always prudent, even for an area you feel confident about. Remember, we live in a constantly changing world. So here’s to double-checking!
2. Top-Notch Written Communication Skills
We’ve said this before, but we’ll repeat it now.
A good technical writer should possess the ability to write clearly. They should be able to convey complex information in simple language, aka “the language of typical humans,” aka plain English.
3. Ability to Work and Thrive in a Team
Technical documentation is part of a bigger mechanism. Good technical writing entails working closely with other departments and recognizing that other experts might know a lot more than you do.
A user manual or white paper can only make sense if the author knows how everything works. So, there needs to be a lot of consultation with editors, developers, designers, and other team members.
No man is an island, and no tech writer is good enough alone.
4. Ability to Remain Objective and Detail-Oriented
As a discipline, information technology entertains no vagueness or jibber-jabber copy. It’s detail-oriented and grounded to the core.
To that extent, your job as a tech writer is to simplify complex information, not to give your opinion.
Learn how to present information in an objective, concise, jargon-free manner, and you’re well on your way to becoming a top-tier technical writer.
5. A Knack for Planning and Organizing Ahead of Time
Technical content is, well…technical. It isn’t necessarily easy to grasp at first glance. Fail to plan and organize your work before writing, and you’re planning to fail.
Good technical writers work on the backdrop of intensive ideation, preparation, and organization. They take time to conduct preliminary research and create a project outline that’s meaty and well-fleshed-out.
In other words, they do whatever it takes to trim out excess fat in every topic they handle. What remains is a brief that aligns perfectly with end-user expectations.
6. Superb Proofreading and Editing Skills
You can’t claim to have good writing skills if you can’t edit a piece of content to its barebones. The same reasoning applies to technical writing.
A technical writer who is worth their weight in gold can review their writing thoroughly and thoughtfully. They can pick out spelling errors and grammatical mistakes by simply running their eyes over a piece of technical content.
More importantly, they aren’t afraid to cut out any sentence or any word that doesn’t work for their intended audience.
What it Takes: How to Refine Your Technical Writing Skills
Do you really need to be a good technical writer to market your product and brand successfully?
The answer is a resounding yes!
Those notoriously wordy white papers, those clunky web pages, those discursive web pages—they could all use some technical writing magic to truly level up.
1. Read, Read, and Read Some More
“Today a reader, tomorrow a leader” – Margaret Fuller
Reading other technical content will ultimately improve your writing skills. To that effect, find prominent writers and examine their writing styles.
Do they pepper their social media posts with lots of images and videos? Or perhaps they utilize bullet points to bring out their thoughts more clearly?
Borrow creatively and use whatever nuggets you learn to beef up your technical reports, user manuals, press releases, etc.
2. Take Up Courses
Truth is, some marketers are talented writers, and others…not so much. And that’s okay.
If you doubt your ability to create solid technical content, you could benefit from taking a course.
For starters, check out the Society of Technical Communication. They’ve got a slew of courses and webinars that are curated for newbies like you. There are also courses on Udemy, so feel free to explore that option too.
3. Develop a Repeatable Process
Take time to carve out a solid workflow. If you know what to do and when to do it, you’re bound to become a more efficient technical writer in the long run.
4. Take Feedback Positively
Ultimately, you can’t refine your writing process if you’re always covering your ears when you get constructive feedback.
Every review and comment you receive about your writing is a chance to improve and be better. So take it all in good faith.
Even better, have a mentor in your corner—someone who will objectively point out areas for improvement and shepherd you in the right direction.
Let Welcome Handle Your Marketing So You Can Level Up Your Writing Skills
What if you had a resource that would help you nail your job so you can ace other business-centric responsibilities (like writing technical information incredibly well)?
What if you had a tool to strengthen your social media strategy, creative workflows, and everything in between so you can work on becoming a top-shelf technical writer?
Say hello to Welcome, your one-stop shop for all things marketing.
Welcome is made by marketers, for marketers. It’s purpose-built to accelerate execution, maximize campaign visibility, and increase control.
For more on how Welcome can help you create a winning marketing strategy, contact us today.