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Almost all writing we come across in everyday life, in home and work, is technical writing (the exception being, of course, fiction books and magazines). The instructions that tell us how to assemble a set of shelves, a resume from a prospect employee, or a submission to a professional journal are all considered to be technical documents.

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Study Technical Writing from home by distance learning - improve your formal writing skills

Technical writing is any writing in which the focus is on the correct, accurate and precise communication of practical information - information that is presented in order to instruct, guide, facilitate or train. Falling under this broader definition are reports, text books, records, submissions, plans and other documents that are not necessarily about technology.

Some of the most common types of technical documents are listed below:

  • Instruction manuals and handbooks

  • Workplace and technical procedures

  • Technical specifications (specs)

  • Business proposals

  • Reports

  • Memos

  • Agendas

  • Meeting minutes

  • Presentations

  • Business letters

  • Newsletters

  • Fact sheets and brochures

  • Forms

  • Questionnaires

  • Briefing materials to support oral presentations

  • Feasibility studies

  • Policy statements

  • Academic theses

  • Resumes

  • Reference and text books

  • Technical articles in journals and other periodicals

  • Web-based documentation


Course Structure and Lesson Content

There are nine lessons in this module as follows:

Lesson 1. Scope and Nature of Technical Writing

  • Nature and Scope.
  • Quality of Information.
  • Nature of Language.
  • Structure.
  • Characteristics of Technical Writing.

Lesson 2. Presentation of Technical Writing

  • Presentation.
  • Basic Parts of a Document (Written text, Images, White space).
  • Headings.
  • Types of Images (Tables, Charts, Graphs, Photos, Drawings).
  • Captions and Labels.
  • Main Elements (Front Matter, Body, end matter).
  • Creating an Index.
  • Elements of Different types of Technical Documents (References, Texts, Journals, Reports, etc.).
  • Referencing.

Lesson 3. Matching Style and Content to the Audience

  • Writing for an Audience.
  • Writing Well.
  • Writing Guidelines (Jargon, Gender neutral writing, Using simple sentences, passive or active language, first, second or third person, etc.).
  • Spelling, Grammar.
  • Editing, Proof reading.

Lesson 4. Planning: Developing a Logical Structure or Format

  • Creating a Technical Document.
  • Research the Document; gather information.
  • Plan; decide on the format .
  • Write; create an outline and then write the first draft.
  • Verify; check the accuracy of what you have written.
  • Revise; amend the document before.
  • Writing a First Draft.

Lesson 5. Collaborative Writing

  • Working in a team.
  • Tasks and Roles.
  • Technical Brief.
  • Strategies for Collaboration.
  • Style Guide.
  • Using Templates.
  • Using Email Effectively.

Lesson 6. Writing Technical Articles for Periodicals

  • Writing for Periodicals.
  • Publisher Specifications.
  • Writing Descriptions and Specifications.
  • Journal Abstracts.

Lesson 7. Writing Manuals and Procedures

  • Writing manuals.
  • Writing Instructions and Procedures.
  • Guidelines.
  • Troubleshooting.

Lesson 8. Writing Project Proposals

  • What is a Proposal?
  • Proposal Categories (Solicited and Unsolicited).
  • Model for Writing Proposals.
  • Grant Proposals.
  • The Stop Format.

Lesson 9. Writing Project Reports

  • Types of Reports.
  • Progress Reports.
  • Completion Reports.
  • Review Reports.
  • Regulatory Reports.
  • Feasibility Reports.
  • Scientific Reports.
  • Elements of a Formal Report.
  • Executive Summaries.


Course Aims

  • Identify a broad range of situations where technical writing is used and where you might gainfully apply those skills;

  • Present technical documentation for a variety of situations;

  • Determine how to write appropriately for a defined audience;

  • Develop formats for different documents that follow a logical appropriate structure;

  • Explain how to effectively collaborate with one or more people in the production of a technical writing assignment;

  • Write items of technical writing that are appropriate for publication in different types of periodicals including: popular magazines, industry magazines, scientific journals, newspapers and e-zines;

  • Write easy to follow, technically accurate instructions for a variety of processes, using a variety of equipment;

  • Write a formal proposal for a project;

  • Write in an effective and appropriate style of report, during, or on conclusion of a project.


What is good technical writing?

Good technical writing helps the reader do the following:

  •  Quickly locate information.

  •  Understand the information.

  •  Apply the information in a practical way.

To achieve these outcomes, good technical writing must have the following characteristics:

  •  Clear and precise use of language.

  •  Correct language.

  •  Accessibility to the intended audience.

  •  Correct information.

  •  Information appropriate to the intended readers and desired outcomes.

  •  Sufficient information for full understanding.

  •  Logical sequencing of information.

  •  Clearly defined structure through use of informative, factual headings.

  •  Adherence to the rules of correct grammar.

  •  Appropriate use of jargon and technical terms.

  •  Sufficient and appropriate use of illustrations or diagrams.


Learn to Write For An Audience

A writer of technical documents should have a clear idea of who is likely to read the document, and what they might need to know. The writer should also consider what the readers can be expected to already know, and what basic concepts or instructions will need to be explained. Writing a manual on how to properly maintain a new car designed for young people will greatly differ from a report by the research and development manager for the board of directors. Likewise a ‘How to use’ brochure for a new domestic electrical appliance will require a different emphasis from one for a specialised task for a surgeon.

The person who will be reading a document is your audience. You must understand who they are, the level of detail they need, how they process information and how they will use the document.

In some cases where your audience is a broad demographic e.g. ‘young people’, you will need to assume your audience has no prior experience of a topic. If however, your audience are third-year apprentice car mechanics (and you are privy to their level of understanding), your writing style can be more technical and you can assume they will understand more specific terminology.

The key to successful technical writing is to keep it simple and know your audience. In many cases, documents are aimed at a large, variable readership. In that case, the writer should include enough content to allow uninformed readers, as well as informed readers, to understand, and use a formal, precise, neutral style of writing to make the document easy to read. Especially when writing to a very broad, general audience (e.g. writing instructions for a washing machine), your writing should always meet the readers’ basic expectations of factual, unemotional language and adequate, clearly written information.


Improve your Technical Writing skills with ACS

If you would like to improve your technical writing skills for job or personal reasons, we can help. Our tutors are here to provide constructive feedback to help you to improve your technical writing.

Study to improve your job or career prospects in technical writing AND if you enrol now you will also receive a free 20 hour self-study course in Editing.

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