Technical Writing, for most people, is considerably different than what they have become used to writing. Why? Because technical writing is just what it sounds like - technical. However, it is not necessarily of a "technical" subject such as computer programming or electronic engineering. In fact, it can be about just about anything!
What Makes Technical Writing Different?
The creativity, flowing, descriptive sentences, and various writing techniques (foreshadowing, for example) are all elimated. In their place come bullet points, diagrams, and short, concise sentences.
The point of technical writing is to explain a process, document how something works, or explain how to do something. A manual that comes with your VCR (or almost any piece of electronic equipment) is a great example of technical writing.
Let's take a look at what you could expect from a piece of creative writing versus the same topic presented in technical writing.
As I pushed the button with the faded word "menu" on it, my eyes became overwhelmed with the explosion of color displayed on the screen.
Pressing the 'MENU' button will display a color-coded menu on your screen.
As you can see, technical writing presents facts - what is expected to happen after something is done. You do not include a personal narrative on your thoughts of the system - only the facts!
Other important aspect of technical writing is including the details. In creative writing, some details can be left out and the story still stands on its own - and could actually be strengthened with the omission. In technical writing, if you leave out a step or a detail, it simply creates an incomplete piece of writing. The following example illustrates this:
After spending five minutes navigating the brilliant colors from the on-screen menus, the system was set up exactly how I planned to use it.
The on-screen menu is colored coded with several options. On this screen, each option is given a "Yes, No, On," or "Off." To select your desired option, use the up and down arrows on your remote control. After your option is selected, press the "OK" button on your remote, which will give you choices to select for that option. Using the up and down arrows again, highlight the option you wish to use, and press the "OK" button to confirm your selection. Follow the same steps for each color coded option.
While at first glance it can sound wordy and significantly more complicated than creative writing, the technical writing summary is simply including the necessary details to be complete.
As you have seen, Technical Writing requires a different perspective than does Creative Writing. Rather than using your descriptive words to provide a new world to your reader, any descriptive words you use are to assist in describing the technical details of your subject. Also, be sure to avoid contractions, as technical writing is a formal style of writing.
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