If you are reading this, chances are you are interested in learning more about technical communication or may be even thinking about applying for a job in technical communication. The following is a short guide that will provide you with some insight into what makes up technical communication and how you can apply your creative writing skills in a useful manner.
The Difference In Purpose
In general, technical writing is used to explain how something works in detail; whereas, creative writing is used to explore the possibilities of ideas and concepts through fiction or non-fiction.
This is not to slight either form of writing. Both can be quite useful depending on your specific area of expertise. For example, if you have a background in mechanical engineering, you may find yourself better suited for writing technical manuals than short stories. This is just an example and not necessarily a rule. The point is that you should not automatically assume that one form of writing is preferable over the other.
Style And Approach
Technical communication can take various forms including articles, brochures, websites, and even books. Like any other form of writing, there is no single “correct” way to write a technical document. However, there are universal guidelines that apply across all platforms.
As a general rule, try to write in the active voice. For example, instead of “Jane read the instructions very carefully,” write “Instructions very carefully read to Jane.” There is no reason to assume that you are instructing someone when you are writing a story. If your writing is well-written and easy to follow, the reader will not encounter any problems following your instructions. Active voice reduces the number of words you need to include in your sentence for it to make sense.
Also, a story should have a beginning, a middle, and an end. There should be some sort of conflict in the story that your reader should be able to relate to or empathize with. A good story will draw the reader in and make them want to continue reading. Without giving anything away, let’s say you have a choice between two products. The first product is innovative and groundbreaking, but it has a few quirks that need to be worked out. The second product is traditional but effective and easy to use.
If you choose to write an article comparing the two products, you would begin the story like this: “There is a product on the market that is changing the way we buy furniture …” This is the beginning of the story. You have a narrator who is either introducing you to the story or telling you about a situation that you are already familiar with. The important thing is that you can see the beginning, middle, and end and the conflict between the two products is clear. You can also include side notes and detail about the companies and individuals involved.
Organization And Structure
In any writing, whether it is technical or creative, you need to have a clear organization and structure. This will make the document more readable and easy to follow. There are basic guidelines you can follow to help keep your writing organized, but you should not be concerned about how your writing looks as long as you are following your instructions.
As mentioned above, a well-written story should have a beginning, a middle, and an end. You should also have a clear understanding of what you are writing about and what is required of you in terms of research and preparation. If you have multiple writers working on a project, it is important to have an editor to keep the work consistent and precise. Otherwise, you may end up with a hodgepodge of information that does not make sense. A good editor can help you find the right balance between form and content so that your story makes sense and is complete.
The Use Of Language
One of the most important aspects of any story or article is the language you use. You should pick your words carefully and use them effectively. For example, if you are writing an article for a scientific journal, you would want to use words like “magnitude,” “significant,” “robust,” and “replication.” Words like “may,” “could,” and “potentially” should be avoided as they suggest a level of uncertainty. Whenever possible, you should try for active or in-your-face language that evokes an emotion or response from the reader. A good technical writer can make words “pop” off the page and have the reader quickly grasp what is being said.
The Difference In Product And Service Domains
In the above example, you wrote about furniture. This is not an unusual topic for an “insider’s” perspective, but it is something you may not have considered when applying for a job in technical writing. Just about any industry or field can be the subject of a technical document, and it is important you familiarize yourself with the specific terminology used in your area.
If you are unsure of the correct terms, look them up. Also, do not be afraid to ask others for help. There is usually more than one way to say or write something, and chances are, others are sharing your confusion. Being in touch with your audience is essential for any writer, and it is even more critical in technical writing. You should not only consider your target audience, but you should also ask yourself “How will this information be received by my audience?” In the case of the article above, the reader is likely an engineer or scientist who is interested in learning about this “furniture buying trend.” Asking yourself these questions will help you determine whether or not your audience will be better served by an article about furniture.
Writing For Specific Audiences
It is very rare that someone reads and enjoys a technical document written for the general public. Most often, this type of writing is meant to serve as a quick reference for the person actually using the product described in the article (and hopefully they will be able to understand it). This type of writing is typically short (1000-2000 words) and very concise. You would want to avoid using too many complicated words or employing a style that is too “in-your-face.” The worst thing you can do is write in a way that makes you sound like a robot.
Writing is often considered a “nonsectarian” activity. This means that it can be used to convey information of any subject matter. There is no right or wrong way to write, as long as you are writing according to the rules of grammar and punctuation. Creative writing can be used to explore various themes and topics, but it is usually associated with fiction or non-fiction narratives.
As you can see, there are many differences between technical communication and creative writing. Just remember that no matter what your background is, there is always a way you can put it to use in a useful manner. The important thing is you find out what fits you best and then go for it!