A directory of resources inthe field of technical communication (and technical writing).

Technical Writing

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Technical Writing, a form of technical communication, is a style of formal writing and business communication, used in fields as diverse as computer hardware and software, chemistry, the aerospace industry, robotics, finance, consumer electronics, and biotechnology. Good technical writing clarifies technical jargon; that is, it presents useful information that is clear and easy to understand for the intended audience.



A Field Guide to Technical SMEs   (PDF)

Although not rare birds in urban high-tech environments, technical subject matter experts (SMEs) are a fascinating species to observe—and a challenging breed for corporate communicators to manage. This tongue-in-cheek field guide identifies four common sub-species, and explains how to spot each by its distinctive markings and how to cope with its behaviors for companionable nesting.

Lange, Penny L. Intercom (2003). Careers>Writing>Technical Writing>SMEs


The Final Why

It's not a question of knowing. It’s more a question of feeling, when you read it, that the material was written at a company where professionalism governs everything. If you see writing that looks professional, then you believe that the coding — which you can’t see — is also professional.

Levinson, Mark L. Elephant (2008). Articles>Writing>Technical Writing


Finding Information in Documentation

Finding information in documentation is easy. Or is it? This blog post argues that there's no universal solution, and that each document and each delivery method offers challenges and requires a slightly different solution.

Nesbitt, Scott. DMN Communications (2009). Articles>Documentation>Usability>Technical Writing


Finding Out Who Likes What: A Research Tool Kit for Technical Communicators   (PDF)

As new technologies revolutionize our communication options, technical communicators must be increasingly accountable for the outcomes of our products and messages. Research in the behavioral and cognitive sciences has provided many data tools that can be very useful to technical communicators. Techniques such as simple descriptive statistics, the Delphi method, trained observers, chi-square analysis, and aptitude/treatment interaction analysis can help technical communicators discover and document the impact of your messages by revealing what you did right, who says so, and who disagrees.

Ausburn, Lynna J. and Floyd B. Ausburn. STC Proceedings (1996). Articles>Research>Writing>Technical Writing


Finding Technical Writing Jobs

Technical writing as a field covers a variety of different skills and positions. Many people, when they think of technical writers, think of user guides and installation instructions. That is certainly one area a technical writer might work in, but it is far from the only area.

Finding Technical Writing Jobs. Careers>Writing>Technical Writing>Blogs


Finding the Right Technical Writer

A no-nonsense approach to finding a great tech writer, even when you don't know what to look for.

Springsteen, JoAnna. CIO Magazine (2008). Careers>Management>Interviewing>Technical Writing


Finding the Technical Writing Community in Utah

In Utah, technical writers abound but are hidden. Utah probably has at least 500 technical writers spread out across companies all over the state (most in Northern Utah), but communication among the technical writers is sparse. The community is a little disconnected.

Johnson, Tom H. List Apart, A (2008). Articles>Writing>Technical Writing>Utah


The First Line of Support

Customer support costs account for as much as 60 percent of a high-tech company’s total costs. Documentation is the first line of support for most customers, and customers usually use documentation to find the answer to a problem they’re having. The inevitable result of poor or nonexistent documentation is that more people try calling the customer support lines for help.

Butow, Eric. Software Development Times (2006). Articles>Documentation>Software>Technical Writing


First Principles of Technical Writing

After a review of some documents last week, a subject-matter expert told me essentially that one of the first principles of technical writing is to assume that the reader knows nothing about the subject matter. I saw a couple of things wrong with this, and so I would revise the SME’s statement to make two corresponding and related basic principles of technical writing.

Minson, Benjamin. Gryphon Mountain (2010). Articles>Writing>Technical Writing


The First Weeklong Technical Writers' Institute and Its Impact   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Rensselaer’s Technical Writers' Institute, the first program of its kind, had a profound impact on technical communication. It enabled technical communicators without formal education in the field to gain important knowledge, provided a forum for communicators from different industries to meet in order to solve mutual problems, played a key role in defining the field and its needs, encouraged recruitment (including the hiring of more women), promoted professional societies and formal degree programs, and seriously affected industry training programs by enabling them to use institute teaching materials. Knowledge gained through the Technical Writers' Institute enabled Rensselaer to develop many other innovations.

Whitburn, Merrill. Journal of Business and Technical Communication (2009). Articles>Education>Writing>Technical Writing


Fitting Technical Documentation Into a Social Web Strategy

Social Media experts, such as David Armano, of Dachis Corp, are proposing new business measures for assessing the effectiveness of social media marketing. Armano is proposing five key measurement factors. So can technical documentation be “re-framed” to meet these criteria? If so, will its value to the business become clearer?

Pratt, Ellis. Cherryleaf (2010). Articles>Documentation>Technical Writing>Social Networking


Five Aims and Purposes of Technical Communication

An outline about the the Processes and the Results of Technical Communication.

University of Vienna. Articles>Writing>Technical Writing


Five High-Paying, Low-Stress Jobs

The article lists technical writers among the top 5 high paying, low-stress jobs. (Technical writer is listed as number five.)

Bell, Amy. Yahoo (2010). Careers>Writing>Technical Writing


Review: Five Non-Technical Writing Books Technical Writers Should Read

Looking for a present for the Technical Author in your life? Here are five books, tangentially related to technical communication, that Technical Authors/Writers should read.

Pratt, Ellis. Cherryleaf (2010). Articles>Reviews>Technical Writing


Five Questions to Ask Yourself While Creating a New Documentation Department

Being asked to take the reins of a brand new documentation department is a challenge that many professional technical writers relish, even though the training and development activities they participated in may never have prepared them for such a rewarding challenge. This article looks at forming a new documentation department and determining what's needed, when it's needed and what resources are available to help the new department carry out its mission.

Butow, Eric. Writing Assistance (2006). Careers>Management>Documentation>Technical Writing


Five Reasons Why Women Are Better Technical Writers Than Men?

Maybe I’ve been very lucky but I believe women are far better as technical writers than men. Here are five areas where I think they have the edge of the guys.

Walsh, Ivan. I Heart Tech Docs (2009). Articles>Writing>Technical Writing>Gender


Five Skills Every Technical Writer Needs

You have to be somewhat technical, although there are many different kinds of technicalese. The essential skill of any technical communicator is to disambiguate.

Johnson, Tom H. I'd Rather Be Writing (2007). Articles>Writing>Technical Writing


Five Skills for Managing Documentation Projects in an Agile Environment

Sometimes, the Agile software development methodology seems like it could be renamed the “Fly by the Seat of Your Pants” methodology. But really, it means that you need a somewhat different set of project management skills for your documentation. I could certainly improve in these skills, but here are a few I rely on in an Agile environment.

Minson, Benjamin. Gryphon Mountain (2009). Articles>Documentation>Technical Writing>Agile


Five Ways to Avoid the “Congratulations” Cliche as You Start a User’s Guide

“Congratulations on purchasing your iPod shuffle.” Have you seen this congratulations sentence before? I see this same pattern of congratulations on almost every manual for products I buy. Could no one think of any other way to kick off the start of a relationship between a product and user? Take the coolest kind of product, an iPod that goes underwater, and then drown the user guide with a cliche.

Johnson, Tom H. I'd Rather Be Writing (2012). Articles>Documentation>Technical Writing>Rhetoric


Five Ways to Supercharge Your Technical Writing Career

Technical writing is known for high salaries, plenty of technical challenges, and the need to constantly adapt. Here are five ways to rise through the ranks and find success in the industry.

Haiss, Craig. HelpScribe (2010). Careers>Writing>Technical Writing>Advice


For Technical Writers, The Future Looks Bright

Last week the Bureau of Labor Statistics released its ‘Jobs Outlook’ for technical writers and let’s just say – it looks bright.

Stewart, Michael. MindTouch (2012). Careers>Writing>Technical Writing


For the Tech Writer's Library

The essentials for the budding tech writer including reference, style manuals, optional recommendations, and other various books on Technical Writing.

Tech-Writer. Careers>Writing>Technical Writing


Foregrounding Positive Problem-Solving Teamwork: Awareness and Assessment Exercises for the First Class and Beyond   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

In an advanced technical and professional writing course, a pair of in-class exercises integrates the teaching of teamwork with other class topics of project management and observation-based research. The first exercise introduces teamwork in a positive way, by raising awareness of strategies for solving problems successfully. The second exercise follows up on the first, focusing on assessment of problem-solving teamwork. The pair of exercises is memorable and effective, showing students in an engaging, thought-provoking way that they have control and responsibility for the success of their teamwork. The materials for conducting the exercises, provided here, encourage reflection and discussion.

Rehling, Louise. Journal of Business and Technical Communication (2010). Articles>Education>Collaboration>Technical Writing


Foreign Language Skills and the Technical Communicator

Recently, I was chatting with a technical writer of my acquaintance who has a near-native grasp of two foreign languages. When I asked him why he didn’t apply for jobs that require those languages, he replied If I did, I’d be giving up anywhere from $3,000 to $8,000 in salary.

Nesbitt, Scott. Communications from DMN (2010). Articles>Language>Technical Writing



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