What a Technical Writer Does & Why You Should Hire One

person typing on laptop

From drawing up instruction manuals to updating documentation, could your organization benefit from a dedicated technical writer?

You may have a great product or service on your hands, but if your users can’t understand the nitty-gritty, a potential unicorn can quickly turn into a dud. That’s where technical writing services come in – simplifying complex topics for the layperson to make your product easily accessible. Good technical writing is an art, which is why it’s a job title in and of itself. But what is a technical writer, exactly, and – more importantly – do you need one? Let’s take a look at the ins and outs of technical writing services.

What is technical writing?

Technical writing is simply a mode of communication, one that translates technical jargon into simpler language. Don’t get it twisted, though: Technical writing sometimes has little to do with technology. Rather, technical writing services are in demand across industries, including software, biotech, health and science, engineering, finance, and even education. That’s because nearly every business has a need to make complex content relatable. 

From IKEA assembly instructions to content for software development, good technical writing transforms specialized information into something more understandable. Examples of technical writing include:

  • Instruction manuals
  • Troubleshooting guides
  • Configuration guides
  • Product descriptions
  • Engineering diagrams
  • Clinical trial reports
  • Job descriptions
  • Budgets and proposals
  • Training manuals
  • E-learning content

What does a technical writer do?

Think of a technical writer as a translator, turning complex technical language into easier-to-understand text. As with any writer, this requires strong communication skills to deliver information clearly and concisely. However, technical writers also need to familiarize themselves with highly technical topics, essentially becoming subject matter experts across industries.

Regardless of the topic, a technical writer is responsible for gathering technical information, drafting technical documentation, and editing their work. Often, good technical writing involves collaboration with developers, product managers, and various teams within an organization to ensure consistency across departments. Many technical writers are also responsible for keeping documentation organized and up-to-date.

Is there a difference between a content writer and a technical writer?

A writer is a writer, right? Wrong! Specialties matter. The main difference between a content writer and a technical writer has to do with intent. While content writers work across all stages of the marketing funnel to draw the audience in, technical writers focus on delivering specialized information with one particular intent – to enable users to actually use your product.

A content writer, for instance, may attract new readers to a website with social media copy, drive email signups through compelling web copy, or boost awareness and search engine optimization with blog posts. They can take creative license with tone and tweak language to match a brand’s singular voice. A technical writer, on the other hand, keeps the tone professional, often sticking to a strict format to deliver documentation, tutorials, and manuals. While the former aims to grab the reader’s attention, the latter aims to convey complex information. This means that a content writer needs to possess unbounded creativity and persuasiveness, and a technical writer needs to possess a deeper understanding of, well… the technicalities. One role is not necessarily more advanced than the other, but the skill sets involved are very different. 

Do you need a technical writer if you already have a writer on your team?

So, you have a writer on your team who is a wizard with words, a guru of grammar, and a creative powerhouse. Unfortunately, that doesn’t necessarily mean they can tackle documentation. When it comes to good technical writing, you’ll want to seek out someone with deep technical knowledge. This could be an engineer or product manager with a particular talent for writing, but these team members may be too close to the product to be able to translate their knowledge for the average user (or to understand what needs to be translated in the first place!). Rather, hiring a dedicated technical writer – either full-time or freelance – puts you in the best position to get even the most complex ideas across clearly.

Ready to chat about technical writing services? Get in touch, and let’s discuss!

ABOUT Marissa Yarr