Introduction to Technical Content Writing

The average human is fairly capable of understanding new concepts and ideas. However, in a group, we have been known to exhibit a preference for familiarity and unwillingness to change. This is not necessarily about crowd behaviour or as the Plebs would say – mob mentality. Rather, this is an outcome of conformity, a phenomenon best described as a situation where individuals tend to agree with the majority opinion whether they personally agree with it or not.
What does this socio-psychological condition have to do with technical content writing, you ask? Well, over extended periods of time, the pressure to conform has some interesting effects. Among other things, it has been known to lead to a general lack of awareness, particularly about new technology. It could even lead to a universal predisposition towards an idea, often corroborated by valid evidence. A common example is that seniors are bad at learning about computers. Yet, many elders seem to be able to handle them just fine. This situation, phenomenon, circumstance, or whatever else you label it is the primary obstacle that technical writers need to overcome. In many ways, technical content is created to circumvent generalised apathy.


Henri Poincaré, the 19th-century French mathematician, once said that “science is built up with facts, just as a house is with stones. But a collection of facts is no more a science than a heap of stones is a house.” Nothing quite captures the fundamental idea of technical writing quite so astutely. Technical content requires that the writer is empathetic to the needs of the reader. More importantly, they also need to understand the difference between technical content for marketing versus technical content that is meant to educate. No matter what the so-called experts may say about how the two are one and the same, they are not the same in practice. Rarely do the two mingle and even when they do, marketing-focussed content is meant to present an overview while instructive content can have varying degrees of complexity. You obviously do not want to elucidate the observations of the temperature gain tests when creating the product description page for a water pump. The tendency to merge the two can have some fairly unfavourable results, including driving away potential customers.

It is a commonly held idea that technical writing is meant only to simplify complex concepts. But this is just one of the goals of technical marketing content. This form of technical writing requires communicating complex information to the reader so they may understand how to accomplish some task or goal. Such content is particularly important for IT companies and software developers. There is greater access to computers or smartphones. More importantly, advances like IoT, smart homes, smart cars, and other forms of technology integration have meant that more users need to learn and familiarise themselves with concepts that were considered too advanced merely a few years ago.

IT companies and firms seem to have a perennial need for technical content-writing services. Technical knowledge rarely translates into the ability to explain needs and features, which is crucial if you want to generate business leads. Technical content writers, on the other hand, can assimilate the information and present the same in a lucid, easy-to-understand style, delivering quality content for tech companies to use as promotional content or instructional material. The two most common examples of each are a product webpage and installation instructions, respectively. Consequently, the job of technical writing often incorporates related disciplines like design and is usually done by a team of people rather than a single individual.

Yet, even the best can sometimes be just a little off from perfect. As a business owner or product developer, you need to understand that content creators can only do so much. Remember the last time you assembled something from Ikea? Did you read the instruction manual before you started to assemble everything or was it after you could not get it to stand up? Technical writing needs to account for the common human habit of avoiding instructions until it is too late. Your users will need a way to locate their mistake and rectify it instead of starting over. While a large part of this comes from product design, dividing the instructions into sets or stages is the most common and effective solution. This seems painfully obvious but it is not as intuitive to execute. Worse, incorrect staging of the instructions may have disastrous consequences. Product developers are not always the best at gauging these divisions since familiarity with their product and an intuitive understanding of design may lead them to overlook simple but crucial steps. The technical content writer usually makes the call here and their experience does come into play when determining when and how to make the splits.

Printed instruction manuals and research reports are important categories of technical writing but online content like product pages and troubleshooting guides make up the bulk of the technical content you are likely to encounter. Thus, a technical content writing service needs to be able to discern which points to cover and what to exclude. Non-essential details serve no purpose on a product page while extraneous information in a set of FAQs or guides will likely confuse the reader.

The goals of technical content creation thus involve a writing style that has some clear characteristics. Whether you are a business owner, a digital marketer, or a content writer aspiring to be a technical content developer, the following pointers should serve as a starting point for technical content writing.

Focus on Simplicity and Accuracy: Technical content writing services work to simplify things. Therefore, it is important to focus on accuracy, clarity, and efficiency. Frame clear, concise, and unambiguous sentences. Clear “wording and phrasing” are also equally important. Technical content writers must get their grammar and punctuation correct to ensure logical progress and legibility of their content.

Know Your Audience: It is extremely important to know the target audience you are writing for. Consider the expected technical and product knowledge of the users, and analyse the language patterns and creativity skills of the users before you move on to write or develop the content. You will have to make some safe assumptions. An emphasis on the organisation is crucial when creating technical content.

Highlight Hazards: Watch out for things which need special attention. There are almost always certain sections which require the user to follow specific steps. Common and expected mistakes could do with some highlighting so that the users know what to look out for and how to avoid errors. Figure out the pain points and high-risk steps, and then use appropriate means to clearly specify the potential hazard. As a technical content writer, one must know how to discover hidden hazards in a scenario. Furthermore, writers must be able to rank the mechanisms to differentiate between the types of severities. This requires communicating with the product developers and a detailed understanding of the product and the platform, in the case of software products.

Consistency is Important: Consistency is important for any kind of content, but while you can get away with deviations with generic content, there is little to no room to manoeuvre in technical writing. For instance, when you are writing about the same thing for three different sections, curb your creativity and ensure it is consistent instead. This is what makes SEO for technical content a challenge, as you have to find the optimal balance between consistency and creativity to ensure the content is original. This is not a problem for printed manuals or troubleshooting guides where fixed terminology supersedes originality. Other content like product pages can be treated like any other marketing content to some extent, depending on the factors mentioned earlier. In general, take care of technical terminology and instructions or steps. This is even more crucial for the localisation of technical content, where you will need to ensure technical details, particularly important ones, are not lost in translation.

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