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What is Technical Communication?

Posted by Marbenz Antonio on January 24, 2024

Technical communication is a broad discipline encompassing any communication related to technical or specialized topics, offering instructions on performing a task, and/or utilizing technology, such as websites or social media.

It involves conveying information about technical or complex subjects to an audience clearly, concisely, and understandable.

Instances of technical communication include user manuals, technical reports, scientific papers, engineering specifications, software documentation, and business proposals.

What Does Technical Communication Entail?

“Technical communication possesses distinct characteristics that set it apart:

  • Clarity and Conciseness: The goal is to present complex information clearly and easily understandable. This involves using simple language, avoiding unnecessary jargon, and organizing information logically.
  • Audience Analysis: Understanding the audience’s needs, knowledge level, and expectations is essential. Customizing content to suit the audience ensures relevance and effectiveness.
  • Purpose: Technical communication serves various purposes such as informing, instructing, persuading, or documenting. The purpose dictates the structure and content of the communication.
  • Document Design: Effective technical communication often involves thoughtful document design. This includes using headings, lists, graphics, and other visual elements to enhance comprehension and accessibility.
  • Medium Selection: Technical communication can take various forms like written documents, presentations, videos, and online content. Choosing the appropriate medium for the message and audience is crucial.
  • Revision and Editing: Technical documents undergo multiple rounds of revision and editing to refine content, correct errors, and enhance clarity. This ensures the final document meets high standards of quality.

What are the Responsibilities of a Technical Communicator?

A technical communicator, also known as a technical writer, is a professional specializing in creating and delivering technical information clearly and coherently. Their primary focus is on the end user, aiming to bridge the communication gap between technical experts and end users who may vary in technical knowledge.

The Society for Technical Communication (STC), a professional association established 70 years ago, emphasizes that technical communicators research and create information about technical processes or products for a targeted audience through various media. Regardless of their specialization, all technical communicators share a user-centered approach, aiming to provide the right information in the right way at the right time to enhance someone’s life and productivity.

The work of a technical communicator significantly contributes to the success of products, services, and processes by ensuring that users can access accurate and user-friendly information. For instance, well-crafted and designed software instructions can empower end users to navigate the product successfully on their own. This not only increases the product’s acceptance in the marketplace but also reduces support costs for the manufacturing organization.

In Which Industry Does a Technical Communicator Operate?

Technical communicators can be found working across a diverse array of industries, holding various job titles. Some common sectors where they are employed include:

  • Information Technology (IT): Developing documentation for software applications, encompassing user manuals, API documentation, technical specifications, and troubleshooting guides.
  • Engineering: Creating documentation for product designs, manufacturing processes, and equipment specifications.
  • Telecommunications: Crafting documentation for network configurations, hardware installations, and user guides for communication devices.
  • Healthcare: Producing documentation for medical equipment, software applications, and user guides tailored for healthcare professionals and patients.
  • Aerospace and Automotive: Developing documentation related to design, maintenance procedures, repair processes, and safety protocols.
  • Energy: Creating documentation for power generation processes, safety protocols, and equipment specifications.
  • Manufacturing: Developing documentation for production processes, quality control procedures, and equipment operation.
  • Finance and Banking: Crafting documentation for financial software, risk management procedures, and compliance guidelines.
  • Government: Producing documentation for public information, policy manuals, and technical specifications for government projects.
  • Education: Developing instructional materials, online courses, and documentation for educational software.
  • Consulting: Providing expertise to various industries on a project basis.

The specific duties of a technical communicator can differ depending on the industry and the type of work. Nevertheless, the fundamental skills of transforming intricate technical information into clear, easily understandable content are universally applicable across all sectors.

Does My Organization Require a Technical Communicator?

The demand for technical communicators arises from the necessity for effective communication in situations where technology, processes, and procedures are intricate, requiring clear documentation for users and stakeholders.

The decision to hire a dedicated technical communicator hinges on various factors, such as the complexity of your products or services, the target audience, and the significance of clear communication in your industry. If your organization routinely generates intricate technical documentation, prioritizes clear communication, and operates in an industry where accuracy and clarity are paramount, bringing on a dedicated technical communicator could be a strategic investment. However, for smaller organizations or projects with less complex communication needs, it might be more practical to utilize existing resources or hire freelance technical writers on a project basis. The advantage of having a technical communicator lies in their ability to enhance information usability and accessibility, thereby furthering the organization’s objectives.

How Can I pursue a Career as a Technical Communicator?

  • Educational Foundation: Begin with a strong educational background, often with a degree in the sciences (BSc) as a foundational step.
  • Developing Key Skills: Cultivate essential skills such as writing, editing, design, and project management.
  • Professional Publications: Stay updated on industry news by reading publications like Intercom and TechComm magazines.
  • Certification: Enhance your credibility in technical communication roles by obtaining professional certification in the field.
  • Join the Society for Technical Communication: Become a member of the Society for Technical Communication (STC) to gain access to valuable resources, webinars, and a community of fellow technical communication professionals.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the role of a technical communicator extends beyond mere ‘technical writing.’ It encompasses aspects such as team dynamics, strategic planning, cross-cultural design, audience analysis, and the development of business-centered goals. Placing the user at the core of the end product, the technical communicator ensures that information is presented optimally, through the most suitable medium, ultimately enhancing the efficiency of individuals in their work or personal lives.


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