Technical writing delivers instructional and explanatory material in clear, readable prose. Writers may specialize in several different fields, including medicine, legal, science, and business. They may produce end user manuals, which are documents aimed at a specific and traditional technical audience, such as engineering specifications, or marketing brochures as well as white papers. The writer usually has knowledge of the subject area or may employ experts in the field to provide information.
Most technical writers have expertise in one area, and specialize in that. Technical and scientific writing takes great knowledge of the subject and is usually aimed at people who also understand it, as in a scientific process or an engineering problem. Technical writing is not like writing literature because it doesn’t require broad appeal but instead is aimed at a specific audience. It also does not use figurative language, but is instead straightforward and informative.
In the legal, medical, and education fields, technical writing must be accurate. Medical documents must use proper terminology and be clearly understood by the reader. In the health insurance field, this is a growing concern because policies need to be easy for the average person to grasp. Education has its own requirements, and people employed to do technical writing for this field will usually have some experience as teachers or administrators, and may design classroom or testing materials and write textbooks.
Business technical writers produce assembly instructions and other end user documents, catalogs, web content, and marketing materials for a specific company. Safety procedurals and employee manuals dictate procedures for emergency situations and such things as dress codes, conduct, and employee benefits. Writers who have graphic skills can also put together presentation materials and slideshows for meetings and conferences.
Another document technical writers do for businesses is white papers. These are reports that educate readers and function as marketing tools. For example, they may present an informative look at a problem that can be solved by the company’s product. They tend to be less straightforward and longer than a brochure or sell sheet. Writers who aren’t necessarily well-versed in the product or topic can interview experts for in-depth information.
Writers who wish to seek a career in this field may major in English and creative writing while at university, but expertise in another field is useful. Science and computer majors, for example, can market their services in creating user documents. Any special knowledge can be put to use in developing technical material, as well as good self-marketing and software skills. A well-crafted resumé and samples of any technical writing will help obtain assignments.