This website has been created to keep anybody that is interested in Technical Communications up-to-date with what I believe to be most relevant topics a Technical Writer or Technical Author (as some prefer to be known as) needs to be aware of.
Technical communication refers to any kind of technical documentation whether it is user guides, maintenance/operating manuals, technical specifications, style guides, diagrams, illustrations, reference guides, on-screen help, interface text, or any other form of content that communicates technical principles and concepts in an easy-to-understand way.
It is difficult to determine one single definition of Technical Communications because it extends into so many different areas of technology and media presentation. It also brings together different forms of creativity, writing, artwork, video and numerous other ways of displaying the information.
Basically, you can think of it as telling the intended audience how to do things, and relying on the communication method to manage the process and any changes that are necessary. The information is communicated via numerous tools that are available to the technical writer, and the great thing about it all is that as a technical writer you are actually getting paid to write.
To be a good technical communicator you have to be creative because you have to take into account the different audiences that are going to use your information. Also you must have an appreciation of the different types of media you will use to get your message across. You have to convey your information in a way that will that will not only inform and engage your intended audience but will make it easier for them to understand.
Commerce, science and technology play a big part in the everyday principles of technical communication. Each of these major areas of industry has a need for technical communicators. In fact there are many areas within these businesses where technical writers play a major role in developing not only the technical documentation for these organisations but also their business documentation and development plans as well.
It is very important that the technical communicator understands the processes and procedures that the company he is working for. It is no good for the company’s image if the person who is writing their documentation doesn’t understand what the company’s products or processes are. That is why the majority of majority of these companies require that the technical communicator has some for qualifications in the discipline that whey will be writing about.
History of Technical Communications
There are different schools of thought as to the origin of technical communications. Some say it started as far back as Ancient Greece, the Renaissance period or even the mid 20th Century. However, there was a noticeable increase towards use of technical documentation by certain military, aerospace and electronics companies following the First World War.
What is more qualified than the theory in the previous paragraph is that in 1953 in the United States two organisations (the Society of Technical Writers, and the Association of Technical Writers and Editors) were formed to improve the quality and practice of technical communication. In 1957 these two organisations merged to form the Society of Technical Writers and Editors, a predecessor of the current Society for Technical Communication (STC).
Whilst, in the United Kingdom the amalgamation of three existing associations (the Presentation of Technical Information Group, the Technical Publications Association and the Institute of Technical Publicity and Publications) created the Institute of Scientific and Technical Communicators (ISTC).
What do Technical Communicators do?
The majority of people believe that technical communicators are just writers that create technical manuals (i.e. maintenance manuals, user guides etc,). Today, that theory is so far from reality because times have changed dramatically, and I have to say, for the better! Today’s technical communicator creates their information for a wide range of businesses, products, processes by using a wide range of media applications.
Depending on the industry that a technical communicator is working in will determine what type of information that will produce. It will not just be technical manuals, it could be business reports, white papers, style guides, content management intranets, websites, software programs and they might also be involved in the testing procedures for the company’s products or software.
The types of jobs available within the technical communications industry are documentation manager, technical writer, online help developer, web creator/designer, information developer, etc.
Technical communicators are in high demand and can be found working in a wide variety of commercial and engineering establishments. You tend to find that certain geographical areas tend to specialise in particular areas. Technical communicators can be found working for financial and insurance institutions, engineering companies, telecommunications, pharmaceutical companies, local and national government departments, defence organisations, etc.
Technical communication is classed as a professional task that allows businesses the opportunity to either employ skilled personnel, or outsource their needs to the relevant technical communication companies.
The process of creating information products or processes in technical communication begins with technical communicator determining who the eventual audience will be and clearly identifying the information they need. The next step is for the technical communicator to research the amount of content needed and to build a structured framework for the information.
The way most technical documentation is created can be categorised under the heading of the ‘Writing Process’. This has been a central focus of writing theory since the early 1970s, and many ways has been significantly applied to producing technical communications.
For a lot of employees technical communication is a very important part of their everyday working life. Most engineers, software developers, web designers, flight engineers and even pilots come into contact with technical communications in one form or another.
Technical communications allows the relevant information to be supplied in a concise manner and is very clear in its meaning if done correctly.