If you have strong writing skills and you’re looking for a career that would allow you to put them to good use, you might consider becoming a technical writer. What does a technical writer do and how is technical writing used? Technical writers create communications and documentation for an organization or business.
In This Article:
- What Is the Purpose of Technical Writing?
- Technical Writer Job Description
- What Makes Technical Writers Unique?
- Technical Writer Qualifications
What Is the Purpose of Technical Writing?
The purpose of technical writing is to deliver complex information in a clear, unembellished manner. It is intended to explain how something works or to provide instructions on how to do something. Technical writing can also instruct someone on how to use certain products or tools.
There are many types of technical writing, including operating instructions, how-to manuals, medical procedures, computer applications and assembly instructions. A technical writer might also compose frequently asked questions and answers to clarify various issues.
Technical Writer Job Description
Now that you know the purpose of technical writing, you may be wondering, What does a technical writer do during any given day? A technical writer’s job responsibilities will vary, depending on the needs of their employer. In general, however, they may do any of the following:
- Assess the scope of a project
- Sort through existing documentation and interview subject matter experts to gain an understanding of technical information
- Organize the available information
- Create and edit technical documents
- Maintain a glossary of technical terms
- Organize the company’s database of technical documents
Technical writers are often involved after a product release to create material that is reflective of the product and to document changes that have been made. Technical writers do not have to be subject matter experts because they work with engineers, support specialists and developers to organize the flow of information among work groups. However, they must be able to understand complex information in order to communicate it to a variety of audiences within the professional landscape.
When a company runs usability studies, technical writers are included in the process. This research helps companies improve the design of a product. The technical writer may sit in on research groups and even conduct personal observations and in-depth research that can be presented to specialists.
Technical content and communications that must float among several groups in a business are catalogued by a technical writer. In this way, technical writers essentially act as librarians, organizing data and research for the business. Technical writers are often called upon to write portions of grants or requests for proposal (RFP) and to help groups turn their research into documentation for use within the company.
What Makes Technical Writers Unique?
Technical writers need certain skills that are not necessarily found in other writing fields. Here is a look at what makes technical writers stand apart from the crowd.
They Write To Educate
An author, and even a journalist, might seek to entertain or even persuade an audience. A technical writer creates documentation that is factual, statistically-based or usability-based.
They Write Objectively
Technical writing is strictly objective. The technical writer is not paid to share emotions or opinions. They present facts in clear, detailed and non-dramatic ways.
They Write for Subject Experts
Creative writing and journalism are geared toward a general audience of people and may include personal bias, however technical documents are written for a specific purpose . Training manuals, for example, are written for employees within a certain industry who possess specific subject-matter knowledge.
Technical writers work with people who do jobs that they themselves may not be trained in, but they still have the ability to describe the processes used and data collected in a way that can be understood by people across several departments.
Technical Writer Qualifications
There isn’t any one universal pathway for becoming a technical writer. Rather, people can enter this profession from a range of backgrounds. In general, however, technical writers typically need a bachelor’s degree to break into the field.1
Some technical writers major in English, communications or another related degree. It’s also helpful to have a strong background in an area of technical expertise, such as engineering.1
It’s not mandatory for an aspiring technical writer to obtain a certification, although doing so may be a way to set yourself apart from other job applicants. Voluntary professional certifications are available from the Society for Technical Communication and the American Medical Writers Association (for technical writers who wish to specialize in medical communications).1
Along with relevant education (and, depending on employer, on-the-job training), a technical writer can benefit from the following skills and characteristics:
- Attention to detail
- Critical thinking
- Writing skills
- Technical knowledge
Now that you’re familiar with how technical writing is used and the various types of technical writing, you may be thinking about taking the next step in your career path. Prepare to pursue a career as a technical writer by applying for enrollment in the Bachelor of Arts in Professional Writing for New Media at Grand Canyon University. Fill out the form on this page to learn more about this and other degree programs at the College of Humanities and Social Sciences.
1 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2023, January 31). How to become a technical writer. Occupational Outlook Handbook. Retrieved August 21, 2023.
Approved by the assistant dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences on Sept. 21, 2023.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.