What Makes Technical Writing Technical

When one thinks of a technical writer, probably the most immediate vision that pops up is that of somebody producing end-user content for a computer program or other strictly “technical” subjects.  To break down the lingo, anything that’s “end-user” based refers to the person who would be consuming the product/service that’s being attached to the technical writing; for example, the pamphlet that comes with your new computer is an example of end-user content.

This is indeed a very basic definition of a technical writer, and it’s certainly not wrong.  However, what many people fail to understand is that the art of technical writing is extremely diverse and encompasses much more than scientific content or content that we would consider “strictly” technical.  Yes, the pilot’s guide to the Boeing 747 is definitely technical content and was most certainly written by a technical writer; however, when it comes to the business of content writing, you’ll need a technical writer, too.

Let’s Get Technical

While I think that the general gist of this definition from Nuvvo on technical writing suffers from “far too narrow” syndrome, the sentence that I’d like to pull from it is that “a good technical writer is the information catalyst between the producer and the user.”

Whoa.  The catalyst.  We’re getting techy already.

To boil that somewhat-flashy sentence down to its component parts, a technical writer is somebody who can take information and then translate it any which way to be consumable to the audience.  By “translate” I’m not talking about going from Chinese to English (even though that’s a form of technical writing as well), but rather from business to consumer or from business to business.

If you own a business, you know your product or service better than anybody else on the planet.  Sometimes, it’s easy to forget that not everybody in the world knows as much about widgets or dump trucks or blogging for business as you do, and it’s easy to make your reader’s eyes glaze over when you’re trying to give them information.

Technical writing is all about the process; in some cases, it’s about explaining the process of getting the 747 off the ground to the pilot, and in others it’s about laying out a pattern of words and content to take a potential client from “potential” to a “sale.”

At the end of the day, the process of sales is both technical and psychological.  You start off with everybody in the world at the beginning of your sales funnel. Then you use a specific process involving content marketing and other methods of sales in order to bring an individual from “anybody in the world” to “your customer.”  There’s a process that both you as a business and the individual (or company) as consumer go through to build that relationship and make a sale.

What Makes it Work?

The catalyst—ahem—for making this happen is the technical writer.  The technical writer understands both sales and your product and can easily combine the informative and the psychological in order to paint a picture of your business and your product.  The technical writer also understands how to most attractively paint that picture for your ideal consumer.

Don’t think of content marketing as working with sales copywriters; at the end of the day, we’re technical writers.  We are working to develop a relationship with your business—whether you’re just starting out or at the head of the field—so that we can understand the necessary processes of your business and your own sales story and present it to the reader.

Content marketing isn’t traditional marketing.  It doesn’t seek to reach out and snatch unwary individuals off the street and then turn them into your customers.  It’s not brainwashing.  It’s providing the right information at the right time so that the individual off the street becomes interested and the interest turns into conversions.  It’s all about the management of information.

Managing information, packaging it, and distributing it properly is the backbone of a solid content marketing strategy.  And when it comes to mastering the process of processes, you’ll need to reach for your trusty technical writer.

What, in your definition, is a technical writer?

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Laura Hancock is a co-owner of ContentEqualsMoney.com. She has also been a long time writer for us. She writes with a passion for accuracy and flow. While her administrative duties have grown, she is a still a big piece of our content writing services team! Currently pursuing a certification in Technical Writing at the University of Washington. She lives in Seattle. +Laura Hancock

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