Technical writing is the writing of technical content, particularly relating to industrial and other applied sciences, with an emphasis on occupational contexts.[1] The range of audiences for technical writing varies widely. In some cases, it is directed to people with specialized knowledge, such as experts or technicians.[2] In other situations, technical writers help convey complex scientific or niche subjects to end users who need a basic understanding of a concept rather than a full explanation of a subject.[3] Technical writing is the largest part of technical communication.[4]

Examples of fields requiring technical writing include computer hardware and software, architecture, engineering, chemistry, aeronautics, robotics, finance, medical, consumer electronics, biotechnology, and forestry.


Further information: Technical writer

Technical writing is performed by a technical writer (or technical author) and is the process of writing and sharing technical information in a professional setting.[5]: 4  A technical writer's primary task is to communicate technical information to another person or party in the clearest and most effective manner possible.[5]: 4  The information that technical writers communicate is often complex, so strong writing and communication skills are essential. Technical writers not only convey information through text, but they must be proficient with computers as well. Technical writers use a wide range of programs to create and edit illustrations, diagramming programs to create visual aids, and document processors to design, create, and format documents.[6]

While technical writing is commonly associated with instructions and user manuals, the terms technical writing and technical documentation can cover a wider range of genres and formats. memos, reports, business proposals, datasheets, product descriptions and specifications, and white papers are but a few examples of writing that can be considered technical documentation.[7] And for highly technical jobs (e.g., engineering and other applied sciences), aspects of résumés and job applications can also be considered technical writing.

Technical writing is not always handled by dedicated technical writers. For example, engineers often need to write directly about their own work. On the business side, marketing materials or press releases are usually written by people in those fields, although a technical writer or other technical person may need to have input on any technical subject matter involved.


While technical writing has only been recognized as a profession since World War II,[8]: 2 [9] its roots can be traced to classical antiquity.[10]: 233  Critics cite the works of writers like Aristotle as the earliest forms of technical writing.[10]: 234  Geoffrey Chaucer's work, A Treatise on the Astrolabe, is an early example of a technical document.[11] The earliest examples of technical writing date back to the Old English period.[12]

With the invention of the mechanical printing press, the onset of the Renaissance and the rise of the Age of Reason, documenting findings became a necessity. Inventors and scientists like Isaac Newton and Leonardo da Vinci prepared documents that chronicled their inventions and findings.[8]: 1  While never called technical documents during their period of publication, these documents played a crucial role in developing modern forms of technical communication and writing.[8]

The field of technical communication grew during the Industrial Revolution.[13]: 3  There was a growing need to provide people with instructions for using the increasingly complex machines that were being invented.[13]: 8  However, unlike the past, where skills were handed down through oral traditions, no one besides the inventors knew how to use these new devices. Writing thus became the fastest and most effective way to disseminate information, and writers who could document these devices were desired.[13]

During the 20th century, the need for technical writing skyrocketed, and the profession became officially recognized. The events of World War I and World War II led to advances in medicine, military hardware, computer technology, and aerospace technologies.[8]: 2  This rapid growth, coupled with the urgency of war, created an immediate need for well-designed documentation to support the use of these technologies. Technical writing was in high demand during this time, and "technical writer" became an official job title during World War II.[8]: 1 

Following World War II, technological advances led to an increase in consumer goods and standards of living.[8]: 3  During the post-war boom, public services like libraries and universities, as well as transport systems like buses and highways, saw substantial growth. The need for writers to chronicle these processes increased.[8]: 1  It was also during this period that large business and universities started using computers. Notably, in 1949, Joseph D. Chapline authored the first computational technical document, an instruction manual for the BINAC computer.[14]

The invention of the transistor in 1947 allowed computers to be produced more cheaply and within the purchasing range of individuals and small businesses.[8]: 3  As the market for these "personal computers" grew, so did the need for writers who could explain and provide user documentation for these devices.[8]: 3  The profession of technical writing saw further expansion during the 1970s and 1980s as consumer electronics found their way into the homes of more and more people.[8]

In recent years, the prominence of computers in society has led to many advances in the field of digital communications, leading to changes in the tools technical writers use.[8]: 3  Hypertext, word processors, graphics editing programs, and page laying software have made the creation of technical documents faster and easier, and technical writers of today must be proficient in these programs.[5]: 8–9 

Technical documents

Technical writing covers many genres and writing styles, depending on the information and audience.[5]: 84–114  Technical documents are not solely produced by technical writers. Almost anyone who works in a professional setting produces technical documents of some variety. Some examples of technical documentation include:


The following tools are used by technical writers to author and present documents:

List of associations


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  3. ^ Marshall, Carrie (2018). Technical Writing For Business People (1st ed.). Swindon UK. p. 1.
  4. ^ "Technical Communications - What is it? - Tech Writer Today".
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i Mike Markel (2012). Technical Communication 10th Edition. Bedford/St. Martins.
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  11. ^ "The Way to the Stars: Build Your Own Astrolabe". Saint John's College. Retrieved April 22, 2014.
  12. ^ Hagge, John (July 1990). "The First Technical Writer in English: A Challenge to the Hegemony of Chaucer". Journal of Technical Writing and Communication. 20 (3): 269–289. doi:10.2190/vwcw-xkmv-949f-vlf7. ISSN 0047-2816. S2CID 170879476.
  13. ^ a b c Crabbe, Stephen (2012). "Constructing a Contextual History of English Language Technical Writing" (PDF). University of Portsmouth. Archived from the original (PDF) on May 12, 2014. Retrieved April 30, 2014.
  14. ^ "History of Technical Writing". Proedit. 14 September 2012. Retrieved May 9, 2014.
  15. ^ "Dictionary and Thesaurus". Merriam-Webster. Retrieved 2016-01-22.
  16. ^ a b c d e f g Tebeaux, Elizabeth; Dragga, Sam (2010). The Essentials of Technical Communication. Oxford University Press.
  17. ^ Perelman, Leslie C., Barrett, Edward, and Paradis James. "Press jaylan peregrino". The Mayfield grave naba Handbook of Technical & Scientific Writing. Retrieved May 4, 2014.
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  20. ^ Johnson, Tom "What Tools Do Technical Writers Use". I'd Rather Be Writing. December 19, 2011. Retrieved May 4, 2014.
  21. ^ "What is LyX". LyX. Retrieved May 9, 2014.
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  23. ^ Brierley, Sean (2002). Screen Captures 102 (PDF). STC Carolina (Report). pp. 5–8. Retrieved May 9, 2014.
  24. ^ Johnson, Tom (December 19, 2011). "What Tools Do Technical Writers Use". I'd Rather Be Writing. Retrieved May 4, 2014.