Definitions of Technical Writing and Technical Writers


Technical Communicators: People who create, locate, analyze, and distribute information. Whenever you prepare a document that will serve as a basis for action, you work as a technical communicator. (Technical Communication, 8th ed., Lannon 2)

Technical Documents have a need to convey information so that the reader can understand and act upon it...(www.novalearn.com/wol/archives/tech.html 1)

Technical Writers design, write, and edit documents for engineering, scientific, industrial, and governmental organizations. These include technical reports, computer manuals, brochures, proposals, technical specifications, educational and training materials, and marketing or public relations releases. (http://english.cmu.edu/programs/bs/tw 1)

Whenever one group of people has specialized knowledge that another group does not share, the technical writer serves as a go-between. But technical writers are not just translators...they are also in the business of generating truth, by choosing what gets written, and for whom, with the full knowledge that later readers will depend on the accuracy of what has been written. (www.uwec.edu/jerzdg/orr/articles/ProfJ/1)

While technical writers are expected to have some knowledge of the subjects they write about, experts usually provide detailed information. Technical writers...organize the information, put it into user-friendly language, select graphics, write sidebars, and impose a consistent format. (http://chronicle.merit.edu/jobs/2000/05/2000051201c.html 2)

Stated very simply, technical writing involves translating ideas into word a specific audience will understand. Technical ideas are initiated by scientists and engineers. (The Tech Writer's Survival Guide, Van Wicklen 3)

Technical communication is writing that gets things done: It can convey useful information and implement specific actions, or it can provide updates on new developments and the progress of experiments and emerging technologies. (Writing for the Technical Professions, Woolever 2)

Technical writing is writing that helps users solve problems with technologies and technical subject matter. (Interview with Jeff Grabill, GSU faculty)

Technical writing is any workplace or professional writing that relates to a technical discipline. (Interview with Elizabeth Lopez, GSU faculty)

A question asked by many is "What is the difference between technical writing and business writing?"

[Business writing and technical writing] overlap in their attention to specific formats (for example, letter styles) and their applications in the realms of business and industry, but similarities should not be extended too far beyond this. Business writing emerged in response to the specific needs of those involved in business-related enterprises and from the daily need for clear communication both inside and outside of corporations. Technical writing...emerged in response to technology, most specifically in the need to communicate or describe that technology to an often less than sophisticated audience. Thus technical writing is grounded in the mechanical or scientific arts as well as to produce user documentation so that technology, as it should, has relevance to and implications for the advancement of society. Business writing...is grounded in commercial enterprise, in the communication needs of organizations. (Writing in a Milieu of Utility, Kynell 5)

Business writers--"professionals who write in the workplace" --and that would be nearly everybody (Couture and Rymer 1989 qtd. in PWO "Terminology: What is Professional Writing").

Technical writers-- "the professional writer whose primary identity is as a writer/communicator" (Couture and Rymer 1989 qtd. in PWO "Terminology: What is Professional Writing").

How are technical writing and science writing different?

Traditionally, the term "science writing" refers to reports of experiments--chiefly journal articles and lab reports (two closely related genres). Technical writing might include these genres, but it typically includes workplace genres such as memos, technical reports, and technical instructions or documentation. (PWO "Terminology: What is Professional Writing").