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Types of Technical Writing

Types of Technical Writing

There are various types of technical writing that are fast becoming a career choice especially in IT and business fields. It involves, building up of various technical documents. Scroll down to know more about this career.
Suganya Sukumar
Technical writing is a broad term that encompasses different types of technical documents used for specific purposes in various fields such as business, science, engineering, industries, construction, etc. Technical document is written keeping focus on the type of audience being targeted. The main aspects of this form of writing are:
  • Content: Some of the characteristics of a good content are factual information, credible source, appropriate for readership, useful and understandable information, clear purpose, no plagiarism, etc.
  • Presentation Techniques: A presentation should be concise, logical, without any bias, containing useful visual aides, specific, interesting, and should have suitable and appropriate font.
  • Language Skills: Language skills includes no grammatical or punctuation errors, no misspelling, no jargon or acronyms, hierarchical headings, active voice sentences, etc.

Reports are made at all levels from students to business people, for various purposes. Perfect format and layout are very important factors in a report, as it contains the complete information of any project. Wide knowledge pertaining to the subject of the report is absolutely necessary for any author. It requires intense research and data analysis. Some types of reports are:
  • Business and sales reports
  • Academic project reports
  • Case study reports
Let's take an example of a complete and well-written academic report. The format of such a report should have:
  • Title Page
  • Acknowledgments
  • Summary or Abstract
  • Table of Contents
  • Introduction
  • Methodology
  • Findings or Observations
  • Conclusions
  • Recommendations
  • Appendices
  • Bibliography
The presentation model depends upon the intended audience, whether they are internal audience or external audience. A presentation can be made using equipment and graphical aids such as flip charts, tables, transparencies, bar graphs, slides, multimedia objects, pie charts, dry erase boards, line drawings, handouts, physical objects, etc. the basic requirements in a good presentation document is:
  • The information in the slides should be crisp and uncluttered.
  • The font type and font size should be readable.
  • Each slide should have a heading or title, if necessary.
  • If images or clip arts are used in the presentation, it should be placed in the right corner, preferably in the lower right corner.
  • Advancing the slides should be done manually to avoid time elapsing problems.
User Manual
The user manuals are the set of instructions or explanations written to help the reader, understand some software application or any system. The important criteria of a properly written user manual is simple language, because it is mostly targeted for non-technical people. Mainly, to understand the troubleshooting techniques, people refer to the user manual. So, the writer should cover all the minute details of the product and the troubleshooting tricks. The difficult terms should be well explained and made easy. The one important chapter in the user manual is Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ).

Executive Summaries
Executive summary is an important communication tool used by academicians and business people. Executive summaries are basically documents that contains the summary of reports, so that the reader is acquainted with the required knowledge, without reading the large body of the report. Executive summary documents, are widely used in management sectors like sales & marketing, accounts & finance, etc. Executive summary documents mostly contains the summary of the problems of the service or the product. The typical structure of an executive summary should be 10% of the report from which it is derived. Concise analysis of the report is made and final conclusions are drawn from it. Executive summary is different from abstracts, in a way that, abstracts are short and it just provides the overview of a large document, whereas, reports can be replaced with executive summaries, as it contains the condensed version of the report. A good executive summary should be presented in the order given below:
  • Subject Information
  • Method of analysis
  • Inference or findings
  • Conclusion or problem solution
  • Recommendations and justification
  • Limitations of the report
Abstracts are basically, a concise and brief guide of a report that summarizes the whole report, which is mainly addressed to technical readers. There are two important types of abstracts. They are:
  • Descriptive Abstract: Descriptive abstract is also called topical, table-of-contents abstract and indicative abstract. This type of abstract lists the topics or chapters that are covered in the reports.
  • Informative Abstract: This type of abstract summarizes the important information in the report, which includes results, recommendation and conclusions.
Spec Sheets
Spec sheet is an information sheet that, illustrates the construction and manufacturing process. Spec sheet documents are widely used especially in mechanical, instrumentation, architecture, production and manufacturing industries. The spec sheets are mainly targeting to the contractors, who will analyze the information and the package which includes all the required schematics and they would estimate the scope and expertise required for the completion of the project. After studying the spec sheet data, bid sheet will be prepared.

The proposals are persuasive documents that are made to provide solutions, recommendations and needs regarding to the problems concerning a product or service. It is a narrative work that is made to bring out successful sales experience. The good proposal should be made in such a way that, it should be "as easy as possible to digest". Many business people say that, writing a proposal is an art and it should be persuasive and rational as well. The proposals can be formal or informal.

Employment Documents
Employment document is mainly referred to as resumes, follow-up letter, resignation letter. The employment documents are prepared from the employer's perspective. Follow-up letter is written by a candidate, to thank the employer for the conducted interview and to express his continuing interests in the job. Resignation letter is a professional courtesy letter to inform the current employer, that you are resigning from your job and the reasons for your resignation. Resume is another employment document produced by a candidate, who is seeking for a new job. The essential requirements of a well prepared resume are:
  • Basic Information : It is mainly divided into three parts identification, educational qualifications and work experience.
  • Optional Headings: It may include accomplishments or achievements, extracurricular activities, awards, career objective, etc.
There are three main types of resumes, depending on the context. They are:
  • Chronological resume
  • Functional resume
  • Electronic resume
Questionnaire is a document that contains a list of questions that are targeted to the readers, in order to gather information from the respondents. It may be for the purpose of survey or to get statistical data. The modes of questionnaire administration are paper-and-pencil mode, computerized mode and face-to-face administration mode. The questions in a questionnaire is basically targeted to get information on preferences, behavior, facts and guidelines.

Tools Used in this Form of Writing
  • Publishing tools, e.g. Microsoft Word, FrameMaker
  • Help Authoring tools, e.g. RoboHelp, Epic Editor, AuthorIt
  • Template Designer tools, e.g. Indesign, PageMaker, QuarkExpress
  • Image Editors, e.g. Photoshop, SnagIt, CorelDraw, Illustrator
  • Web Design tools, e.g. Dreamweaver, FrontPage
  • Screen Recording tools, e.g. Camtasia, Captivate
  • Multimedia tools, e.g. Flash, Max 3D
  • The Darwin Information Typing Architecture (DITA) tools, e.g. Epic Editor
The opportunities in this field are vast and the growth is also high, because it is involved in all IT and business sectors. If you are thinking of becoming a technical writer, just remember that the content should be concise, brief, comprehensible and finally, it should reach the targeted audience to serve the purpose of the work.