Technical writing is an ever-growing field of writing that requires a lot of skill and even more knowledge of the industry you’re writing for. It goes without saying that technical writers are required to substantially understand the different types of technical writing out there. They should also be fully aware of what’s expected of them when writing up important professional documents – some might even be legal documents that might be presented in a potential court case.
Mastering all types of technical writing is of course no easy feat. It takes years to master every different kind of technical documentation. It’s certainly a challenge only the most adept writers can take on.
Let’s take a look at 9 of the most useful types of technical writing that all technical writers should become familiar with. We’ll point out key details about each one and talk about how they are different from each other – from medical writing to business writing to policy document writing.
You can find out more about medical writing on this website.
What is technical writing as an umbrella term?
Let’s begin with a quick definition. Technical writing is the writing of documentation that is used in technical-heavy industries. There are of course many subfields that have their own technical writing processes. Some of the most common subfields that require heaps of technical writing include computer software, engineering, chemistry, etc. You get the gist.
These industries require a technical writer to communicate technical information in an effective and simple way. In a nutshell, the job of a technical writer is to simplify complex topics, so you’ll need to be proficient in interpreting different types of data and technical language confidently and methodically.
What are the types of technical writing?
Reports and reviews
One of the most common documents that technical writers can assist in is creating professional reports and reviews. When writing reports, you need to present precise facts and ensure your research is conducted fastidiously without any holes. There’s no room for error, that’s for sure. Technical reports and reviews include but are not limited to financial reports, performance reviews, business status reports, legal case reviews, etc.
End-user documents such as user help guides or product manuals help deal with the ‘how-to’ when customers need clarity. It’s all about helping users understand how to use things. This of course means technical writers are required to create instructions that are clear and concise. Accuracy is an absolute must!
User help guides
The objective of a user help guide is to answer specific questions that a user may have when setting up a new software or learning how to use a new product, etc. Think of these technical guides as a FAQs page – where you go when you’re confused and unsure. It’s also useful if these guides are broken down into clear-cut sections like ‘troubleshooting’ or ‘set up’.
Similar to user help guides, product manuals are usually booklets that tell you about all the important features that come with a product and how you as the user can operate it. Most product manuals are thrown straight into the bin, but remember that there’s some important info in there that shouldn’t be disregarded. After all, a technical writer has spent hours typing it up for you!
If you think of yourself as a bit of a wordsmith, but still love getting technical and scientific with writing, then a technical marketing writer could be a job suitable for you. This is where the cross-over between wordy technical writing and more creative copywriting lies.
The documents included in marketing technical writing such as white papers and case studies aim to be the middleman between consumers and the businesses that provide and serve them.
White papers are persuasive guides that provide both an in-depth report on a particular issue and also a solution to the problem. They’re authoritative, analytical, and explain the problem with the solution in mind. They also include recommendations on what’s the best quick fix. The technical writer must remain impartial and ensure the writing is impersonal.
You may already know what a typical case study includes, but the technical writing of a case study is a lot more complex than you might think. A case study is basically a thorough analysis of a real life person, place, event, or situation. The purpose of a case study is to identify key facts and figures surrounding the subject matter and point out patterns and trends that can be generalized to a wider issue at hand.
They’re meticulous and extensive written pieces that take the context and period of time into account too. As a result, the technical writer should maintain a good sense of direction during their study.
Proposals are a call-to-action that come at the start of a new plan. For example, a new building project will need a proposal document written up before construction can start; or an organization might write up a proposal about particular improvements needed for their HR department, etc.
As a result, proposals should be written in a hugely persuasive way. The aim is to convince and identify the reasons why it should happen. The intended plan of action needs to be bulletproof.
Policies and procedures
Perhaps one of the most important technical documents that a technical writer produces is a policy document. All companies will need to have a policy document that helps protect the business from any potential lawsuits coming from employees. Think of these documents as almost like a contract setting out guidelines, rules, and regulations. If they never existed, an employee can claim they were unaware of particular rules and were never informed in the first place.
It’s absolutely critical that technical writers present the policy and procedures document with a strict formality. The language should be understandable and comprehensible by anyone who reads it. It should also never discriminate against any individual or group of people, whether that’s race, gender, sexual orientation, etc.