Some Common Characteristics of Technical Writing
Focused on audience: Technical and workplace documents address a specific audience. The audience may be an individual or a group, and it may or may not be known to the writer. While there is always a primary audience addressed, there may be a secondary audience. Thus, an understanding of the reader or user of a technical document is important.
Rhetorical, persuasive, purposeful, and problem-oriented: Technical communication is all about helping the reader or user of a document solve a problem or compel others to act or do. For example, the syllabus of your calculus class informs the students what is expected of them; the university’s web site provides information to potential students about how to apply or to current students about where to seek assistance. Identification of a specific purpose and a particular audience are the first two steps of technical writing.
Professional: Technical communication reflects the values, goals, and culture of the organization and as such, creates and maintains the public image of the organization. Look back at your university’s web site to see what image it conveys, or consider the United States Government. In 2010, the Plain Writing Act was enacted to promote clear government communication that the public can understand and use. The Act calls for writing that is clear, concise, and well-organized. For additional information, check out this resource on Plain Language.
Design Centered: Technical communication uses elements of document design such as visuals, graphics, typography, color, and spacing to make a document interesting, attractive, usable, and comprehensible. While some documents may be totally in print, many more use images such as charts, photographs, and illustrations to enhance readability and understanding and simplify complex information.
Research and Technology Oriented: Because of workplace demands, technical and workplace writing is often created in collaboration with others through a network of experts and designers and depends on sound research practices to ensure that information provided is correct, accurate, and complete.
Ethical: Lastly, technical communication is ethical. All workplace writers have ethical obligations, many of which are closely linked to legal obligations that include liability laws, copyright laws, contract laws, and trademark laws. You’ll learn more about these in a later chapter on ethics.
What Standards Should I Observe to Make my Writing Successful?
Good question! As a member of an organization or team, even as a student, you want to produce the absolute best writing you can. Here are the standards you must follow and some tips to help you. If you keep these in mind as you work through your learning in this text, hooray for you! You get the great writer award! You will also have a tremendous advantage in the workplace if your communication and design skills meet these standards.
- First and most important, your writing must be honest. Your trustworthiness in communication reflects not only on you personally but also on your organization, company, or discipline.
- Your writing has to be clear so that your reader can get from it the information you intended. Strive to make sure that you have expressed exactly what you mean, and have not left room for incorrect interpretations.
- Next, good writing is accurate. Do your homework and make sure you have your facts right. There is no excuse for presenting incorrect information.
- Also make sure you have all the facts, as your writing must also be complete. Have you included everything that your reader needs?
- Be sure to be concise. Your audience has neither time nor patience for excessive verbiage, so simplify and cut any clutter. Good writing is always concise writing.
- Your document should be visually attractive and easy to navigate. Readers are less likely to be moved by a document that is not carefully designed and professional.
The following is a video by Dawn Davenport, a technical writing manager of a Fortune 500 company, who discusses what technical writing is and some of the characteristics she looks for in hiring technical writers:
CHAPTER ATTRIBUTION INFORMATION
Huntsman, Sherena. "What is Technical Writing." An Introduction to Technical Writing. [License: CC BY 4.0] Davenport, Dawn. "What do you look for in technical writers?" Video. YouTube.com.