5 excellent examples of technical writing
The gold standard for good technical writing isn’t entertainment value or clever phrasing or even intelligence. When it comes to technical writing, good means informative, detailed, and digestible.
What is technical writing?
Technical writing isn’t always the most thrilling to read, but it serves a powerful purpose: helping people make sense of complex processes and concepts. There are a few common types of technical writing:
1. Consumer technical writing
The goal of consumer technical writing is to help consumers understand, install, use, implement, or repair a particular product or tool. Consumer technical writing shows up in user manuals, legal disclaimers, website help centers, and employee handbooks.
2. Expert-to-expert technical writing
Written by experts for other experts, this type of technical writing is designed to help a professional in a particular field either get information quickly or dive deeper into a complex topic. You typically see expert-to-expert technical writing in legal documents, studies, research summaries, and white papers.
3. Technical marketing writing
Technical marketing writing is writing used to help sell a technical device or tool. Most technical marketing writing falls under the category of B2B (business to business) writing. Companies use technical marketing writing in pitch decks, case studies, and annual reports to promote or sell their services and products to other businesses.
How to write a technical piece
Technical writing is challenging, but skilled technical writers make it look easy. They use precise language, write in clear, straightforward sentences, and adopt a format that’s easy to follow.
To be a technical writer, you need to have both analytical thinking skills and a deep understanding of the topic you’re writing about, whether it’s consumer electronics or medical research.
Here are the fundamental steps to writing a technical piece:
1. Consider the goal
Figuring out your objective will help guide your writing process and inform your content. Are you trying to simplify a complex process for a consumer? Do you need to highlight the benefits of a tool in order to sell it? Do you want to summarize a lengthy paper?
2. Identify the audience
Audience is everything in technical writing. Creating a cell phone user manual for a consumer who may or may not be tech-savvy requires a completely different approach than writing a white paper on renewable energy resources.
The intended audience for your technical piece influences how much background information you provide, what terminology and format you use, and how you position the problem and solution.
3. Work with a template or format
Format is the unsung hero of accessible technical writing. Using the right structure for your technical writing piece allows you to lay out your points in a logical manner, in turn making it easier for readers to follow along and stay engaged.
There are different templates and structures for user manuals, case studies, white papers, and research summaries, so make sure you’re working within the correct framework. Once you identify an appropriate format, you can create a detailed outline.
4. Overexplain, then cut
As you fill in your outline step by step, try to include more information than you think is necessary. You can always go back and cut unnecessary sections once you have a detailed rough draft, but it’s usually easier to work with more information at the beginning than less.
5. Look for gaps
Once you have a complete draft, put yourself in your audience’s position to try and figure out where you could enhance or simplify your piece. Ask yourself the following questions as you reread: Are the concepts and instructions as clear as possible? Are you using the right terminology? Are there any steps or background details missing? Do you need visuals like graphs and illustrations to make your points?
6. Simplify and clarify the wording
Take another pass at your work, looking for opportunities to improve your phrasing and wording. Maybe you’re using too much jargon, for example, or maybe there are sections where the language isn’t precise enough.
5 great examples of technical writing
These five examples of effective technical writing can help inspire and inform your work as a technical writer.
1. Technological white paper
Who: Citrix Systems
What: Technical marketing writing
To promote their cloud-based workspace product and explain how it works, Citrix Systems shares a handful of different business use cases using clear, persuasive language.
2. Legal disclaimer
What: Consumer technical writing
This fair use disclaimer is short and delivers a clear message: that the site is for educational purposes only.
3. User instructions
What: Consumer technical writing
Using simple language and helpful visuals, Slack explains what keyboard shortcuts are, why they’re useful, and how users can implement them.
4. Medical study
What: Expert-to-expert technical writing
This study describing the effects of long-distance running on bone density is written in straightforward, precise terms using appropriate scientific terms.
5. Safety manual
Who: Port of Seattle
What: Consumer technical writing/Expert-to-expert technical writing
This construction safety manual straddles the line between consumer technical writing and expert-to-expert technical writing. It uses a step-by-step format to break down safety instructions and gives clear, direct commands.
Get familiar with technical writing
You may think technical writing only exists in the thick user manuals at the back of your TV console, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Good technical writing is everywhere if you know what to look for. This means it's also a worthwhile niche to consider if you want to become a freelance writer! To improve your skills as a technical writer, spend some time reading different types of technical writing and taking note of what works and what doesn’t.