What Is Technical Writing?
Updated: Jan 9
If you need a piece written about a technical subject, it’s logical to think that you need a technical writer. But often, the term “technical writing” refers to something quite different. Throw in terms like “technical copywriting” and “technical content writing”, and suddenly it’s a mission to find the right help.
Which Type of Writing Do You Need?
As a quick summary, technical writers generally write user manuals, help content, online FAQs, and standard operating procedures and processes. Technical copywriters write marketing materials like case studies, brochures, website copy, and product guides. Technical content writers are similar to technical copywriters but focus on helping create online content such as blogs, white papers, eBooks and social media posts.
Technical Writing In-Depth
Technical writers often use specialised software to create user manuals or other documentation, such as Madcap Flare, Adobe RoboHelp, Microsoft Visio or Adobe FrameMaker. Essentially, the role of the technical writer is to document information clearly so that the user can understand and follow instructions to achieve an end result.
If you have ever spent hours building a piece of flatpack furniture with just a few illustrations that make absolutely zero sense, then you probably understand the importance of a good technical writer – and the consequences of employing a bad technical writer.
Technical Writing in Engineering and Construction
In AEC industries, the need for technical writing will depend on what you do:
If you manufacture plant or machinery, you’ll want to create a user manual that is clear and helpful.
If you create construction software, you’ll probably want some comprehensive help files or online help guides for common questions.
If you are an architecture firm, engineering consultancy, or contractor, you may want to create standard operating procedures or processes, or may be required to for bids and tenders.
If you want to try technical writing for your company, this guide has a comprehensive list of tools and resources to get you started.
Technical Copywriting In-Depth
Copywriting is specifically aimed at getting the reader to take action, usually to buy a product or service. To do this effectively, the copywriter needs a very deep understanding of the audience, such as their motivations, fears and objections to buying. Then they address these concerns to get the audience to click the Buy Now button.
With technical copywriting, the aim is no different, but these types of writers will have specialised knowledge of a specific industry or be comfortable with writing about technical subjects. For many people, just talking about subjects that are remotely technical can sound daunting. Enter the technical copywriter, who uses quadratic functions to plan the perfect amount of text! (Not quite, but close.)
Technical Copywriting in Engineering and Construction
The majority of traditional company literature that most engineering and construction companies produce will be copywriting. However, technical copywriting also includes digital copy as well. Here are some examples:
Case studies about past projects to build authority and generate sales
Product or company brochures aimed at convincing customers to choose them
Bids, tenders and proposals for projects where there is a written or “quality” element to them
Sales emails or direct mail letters encouraging readers to buy
Website copy intended to sell products and services
If you want to improve your business copywriting, check out My Copyblogger for a wide range of copywriting resources.
Technical Content Writing In-Depth
In contrast to technical copywriting, technical content writing is far less salesy and obvious. Content marketing is aimed at selling products and services by building the reader’s trust through providing useful or helpful advice.
Imagine that you wanted a new floor for your home. You did some research and found three companies:
Company A has all the technical specifications for their flooring and a quantity calculator, so you can order the right amount
Company B has all their products listed with the price and not much else
Company C has lots of helpful information on their blog about what types of floor you can get, which floor is the best choice depending on the desired location, explanations about the different laying methods, a quantity calculator and informative product descriptions
Which company are you more likely to go with? Chances are, you will trust Company C more because they’ve taken the time to give you all the information you need to make the right decision for you. Sure, there’s a chance you would read all their information and then buy your floor from Company B who are cheaper, but there’s just as much chance that you’ll like and trust Company C more because of their content.
Technical Content Writing in Engineering and Construction
This is more of a new development in AEC industries. Content marketing has made massive differences to companies in other industries, and it’s no different for construction. The first place many people search for information is Google – content marketing helps you be one of the results they find there, through:
Blog posts aimed at drawing visitors to your site, developing trust with your readers, and keeping your company in people’s minds
eBooks for longer or more in-depth subjects that can’t be covered in a blog post, such as a buyer’s guide to the types of plant available
Social media posts to inform your readers, generate traffic to your site, and keep your company top of mind
To get started with content writing, consider taking a free Hubspot Content Marketing course through their Academy.
Sharing is Caring
So, the next time you find yourself in need of some writing, you now know what you’re looking for and have some resources to check out for help. And, if you found that useful, please share this post with your colleagues or on your social media channels to help others.
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