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Technical Writing

Why do we use technical writing? Whenever we write, it is usually for a purpose. We may write to express our personal thoughts and feelings, analyze something, or persuade someone. We can use different writing styles depending on what we are writing and who we are writing to. These types are as follows:

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Technical Writing

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Why do we use technical writing? Whenever we write, it is usually for a purpose. We may write to express our personal thoughts and feelings, analyze something, or persuade someone. We can use different writing styles depending on what we are writing and who we are writing to. These types are as follows:

  • Creative writing

  • Analytical writing

  • Personal writing

  • Persuasive writing

  • Technical writing

The type of writing we will focus on today is technical writing. Let's begin by looking at a definition.

Technical Writing Definition

Technical writing focuses on giving the reader clear instructions, directions, or explanations on a particular subject. Technical writing is used whenever we want to tell the reader something and/or how to do something.

Types of Technical Writing

Technical writing can come in different forms and can be written for a variety of reasons. Some types of technical writing include the following:

  • Instruction/user manuals (e.g., how to assemble a piece of furniture or use equipment)

  • Recipe books

  • Guide books and brochures (e.g., what to do when traveling to a particular country)

  • Medical/scientific articles and journals

  • Reports and/or reviews

  • Proposals (e.g., to get funding for a business)

  • Technical descriptions

  • Advertisements or promotional media (e.g., posters, leaflets, billboards)

Although adverts are often considered to be types of creative writing, they can also be considered technical writing as they are used to spread factual information or tell consumers what to do.

Technical Writing Style

The technical writing style differs from other types of writing (such as creative, analytical, personal, and persuasive) as its main purpose is to instruct and inform. So, what are the main characteristics of technical writing? If you want to know how to write using the technical writing style, you need to be aware of the following features:

  • Imperative and declarative sentences

  • Clear and concise language

  • Objective Language

  • Jargon

Let's now look at each of these in detail.

Imperative and Declarative Sentences

As technical writing involves instructing and informing, it mainly uses imperative and declarative sentences. But what are the differences between these two sentence functions?

First, let's look at the definitions:

An imperative sentence gives a command or request to the reader.

An example of an imperative sentence is:

Technical Writing Imperative sentence example StudySmarterFig. 1 - Imperative sentences tell someone to do something.

Imperative sentences are often found in recipe books and instruction manuals as they give clear instructions using imperative verbs (such as put, hold, bake, stir, etc.).

On the other hand,

A declarative sentence is used to make a statement.

'The English language is a lingua franca. It is spoken by around 1.35 billion people worldwide.'

Declarative sentences are often found in articles, journals, and reports as they provide the reader with factual information they can learn from.

Clear and Concise Language

Technical writing uses language that is direct and gets straight to the point. The language should be easy for the reader to follow - there is no need to add unnecessary information, as this will not benefit the reader. Take a look at the following two examples. Which one uses clear, concise language?

A metaphor is a type of language that is referred to as figurative. This means that the meaning of a metaphor should not be taken literally but figuratively.

A metaphor is a type of figurative language. Its meaning should not be taken literally.

If you thought the second example uses clear, concise language, you'd be correct! The first example is not clear and concise due to the following elements:

  • Excessive use of the passive voice
  • Too many non-content words (such as this, that, and to)
  • Too much repetition

Objective Language

Objective language refers to language based on fact and logic. It does not hold a bias towards anything and does not include personal opinions/feelings. This is important for technical writing, as the information should be true and accurate and not influenced by preconceived judgment.

Objective language differs from subjective language, which refers to language that expresses personal thoughts/feelings and biases. An example of this is a diary entry, as the writer uses the first person to recount their own experiences.

Jargon

Technical writing often uses specialized terms or phrases specific to certain professions/industries; we call this jargon. These terms may not be understood by those unaware of the context or who do not work in a particular industry. A few examples of jargon are as follows:

Linguistic jargon:

A homonymous relationship in linguistics refers to the relationship between homonyms. A homonym is a broad term for homographs and homophones.

Medical jargon:

The patient is suffering from palpitations and will need an echocardiogram. This may lead to the diagnosis of tachycardia.

Legal jargon:

The claimant testified in court. The jury found the defendant guilty, but he was later released on parole.

As you study English Language, you may come across some terms that you understand, but others may not. This is also an example of jargon! Each subject you study in school will contain specialized language for that particular subject.

Technical Writing Examples

Below are a few examples of technical writing:

Instruction/user manual

As the name suggests, an instruction manual usually provides the reader with step-by-step instructions.

How to operate a camera:

Step 1: Use the mode dial to select the 'A' or 'P' mode.

Step 2: Press the shutter halfway down to focus and release the built-in flash.

Step 3: Press the shutter fully down to take a picture.

In this example, imperative verbs are used - such as 'use' and 'press' - to clearly instruct the user.

Manuals are often accompanied by diagrams. For example:

Technical Writing Assembling equipment diagram StudySmarterFig. 2 - Instruction manuals tend to be multimodal as they often include diagrams.

Recipe Book

A recipe book provides the reader with a list of ingredients and step-by-step instructions.

1. Mix dry ingredients and add chocolate chips.

2. Combine egg, milk, and butter and stir into the flour mixture. Do not over-mix.

3. Bake at 375 °F for 20 minutes.

Guidebook

A guidebook is a book of information about a particular subject. A specific type of guidebook is a travel guide, which gives information about a certain place (e.g. a country or city) and is designed for tourists or visitors. It often gives tips on what to do in certain places.

Greece is a stunning destination for tourists. Travel to the Greek island of Crete for pristine beaches and delicious cuisine. Sunny weather is guaranteed between June and September. Fly with Southwest Airlines from $760 per person.

Technical Writing Skills

Want to improve your technical writing skills? Remember the following things:

  1. Ensure your writing is clear and easy to understand. It should be straightforward and get straight to the point. Avoid including unnecessary information or overly imaginative language.

  2. Ensure your writing is not biased. Do not include personal opinions, as they discredit factual information and could negatively influence the reader.

  3. Ensure you use imperative and declarative sentences. When you want to state a fact or tell the reader something, use declarative sentences. When you want to tell the reader to do something, use imperative sentences.

Technical Writing - Key Takeaways

  • Technical writing is a type of writing that focuses on giving the reader clear instructions, directions, or explanations on a particular subject. We use technical writing whenever we want to tell the reader something or to do something.
  • As technical writing involves instructing and informing, it mainly uses imperative and declarative sentences.
  • Technical writing uses language that is direct and gets straight to the point. The language should be easy for the reader to follow.
  • Technical writing uses objective language, which focuses on fact and logic.
  • Technical writing often uses jargon - specialized/technical terms specific to certain professions.

Frequently Asked Questions about Technical Writing

The purposes of technical writing are to instruct and inform the reader.

Types of technical writing include instruction manuals, medical/scientific journals, guidebooks, and technical descriptions. 

7 types of technical writing are as follows:


1. Instruction/user manuals

2. Recipe books 

3. Guide books and brochures

4. Medical/scientific articles and journals 

5. Reports and/or reviews

6. Proposals 

7. Technical descriptions

Technical writing should be clear, concise, and objective. It should use imperative and declarative sentences.

Two of the most important factors of technical writing are:


  1. The writing should be clear and concise - easy for the reader to follow.
  2. The writing should be objective and focus on facts and logic, instead of opinions and bias.

Test your knowledge with multiple choice flashcards

Which of the following is not a type of technical writing?

True or false?Technical writing uses clear, concise language.

What type of language does technical writing use?

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