Writing Skills

While it's true tech writers need a variety of skills, the National Association of Colleges and Employers ranks above average verbal and writing skills as high. Other key requirements to a successful career include an awareness of audience and an understanding of technology (28).


The Occupational Outlook Handbook defines one of the main characteristics of tech writing as transforming “technical information into easily understandable language.”In John M. Lannon's textbook Technical Communication, college students get first-hand experience analyzing their audience. He writes, "Good writing connects with its audience by recognizing its unique background, needs, and preferences" (23).

Along the same lines, Katherine Haramundanis advises students to "identify the readers whom you are writing, evaluate what they require of the document, and determine why they will use it" (26). Because tech writers create documents for such a range of readers, they have to zero in on a particular audience. For example, a tech writer might write a specifications for technicians (a highly technical audience), then turn that same information into an article for the company magazine (non-technical audience).

Here, Haramundanis shows the range of people that you could be writing for in the computer industry:

  • Lay people (the general public)
  • Experienced users
  • Computer operators
  • Computer programmers
  • Designers (33)

When writing to each distinct group of readers, you will  need to tailor the information to meet their needs. Writing is successful when it is is useful for the specified audience. This means that the readers are able to clearly understand the information and use it. The material is meaningful to them.

Something else to keep in mind is that your writing skills will constantly be challenged with any tech writing position. With each new project, you will be developing and sharpening your writing skills. You may think it would be easier to, say, transform technical information into a manual for customers, but this actually takes a lot of time and energy because you need to focus on what your readers really need to know and how they will use the information.  

Learn more!

Technical Writing: Persuasion
Professor Lipuma from the New Jersey Institute of Technology explains what persuasion is, focusing on reason and emotion.

Works Cited

Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Technical Writers." Occupational Outlook Handbook, 17 Dec. 2009. Web. <http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos319.htm>.

Haramundanis, Katherine. The Art of Technical Documentation. 2nd ed. Boston: Digital Press, 1998. Print.

Lannon, John M. Technical Communication. 8th ed. New York: Longman, 2000. Print.

National Association of Colleges and Employers. "Alternative Careers for Engineering and Science Majors." 43rd ed. Job Choices in Science, Engineering, and Technology: 2000.