Top 10 Things I Learned About Technical Writing

I’m not a writer. I’m not even sure I was ever a writer I’ve always been more of an editor. But when the opportunity came for me to write for my company, I jumped at it because it meant getting to do something new and exciting. 

And as it turns out, technical writing is great! It’s challenging but rewarding, and there are so many things you’ll learn along the way that you can apply to your other work as well. Here are ten lessons I learned while becoming a better technical writer:

All about Technical Writing w/ Linda Ikechukwu – YouTube
Key Takeaways
1. Clear communication is paramount.
2. Understand your audience’s needs.
3. Simplicity enhances comprehension.
4. Consistent formatting aids readability.
5. Visuals complement written content.
6. Edit and proofread meticulously.
7. Collaboration improves quality.
8. Technical accuracy is non-negotiable.
9. Keep learning and adapting.
10. Empathy fosters user-centric writing.

Technical Writing Is About Connecting With Your Reader

It’s easy to think that technical writing is all about you and what you’re trying to explain. It’s not. The most important person in the process is the reader, who may or may not know anything about your subject matter. The best way to make sure they understand it is by putting yourself in their shoes and finding out what they need from you as a writer.

Want an example? Let’s say I’m writing an article on how to use the Internet (a topic I know very little about). As I’m researching different topics, it might occur to me that “information superhighway” might be easier for my readers than “Internet.

But which one would be easier for them? Well, if I were writing for my parents or grandparents who don’t understand much about computers but used dial-up back in their day (or maybe still do), then “information superhighway” makes sense because they probably haven’t heard of the Internet yet. 

But if I were writing something aimed at people who have been using computers since childhood and perhaps even have blogs themselves then perhaps there would be more benefit in using words like “World Wide Web” or even just plain old “web.”

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Know Your Tools And Formats, And Work Within Them

To know your tools and formats, you must first know your audience. This is the most important part of writing technical documents, but it’s also the hardest because you’re dealing with real people and not just numbers on a page. 

If you can learn about who your readers are, what they want from their documentation, and what format makes sense for them to receive it in (and why), then this will all come naturally to you.

Make Yourself Available To Your Authors

Make yourself available to your authors. As a technical writer, you are serving as the voice of a product team and helping them realize their vision for the final product. This means that being accessible is key to making sure that your authors have everything they need from you to make decisions and execute their work.

Make sure that you’re always answering questions about the project’s scope, timeline, goals, and expectations with full transparency so that everyone involved will feel comfortable taking ownership of the result. 

You’ll also want to be open to feedback from your authors throughout this process; if an author notices something about the work environment or product development process that could be improved upon (for example), ask them how they’d like things done differently next time around so that everyone involved can get what they want out of this experience together!

Being present during meetings or phone calls with outside clients is important because it shows people they care about what they do by taking an active role rather than just sitting back while others take charge which leads me right into my next point:

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Organize Your Files

If you’re like me, you’ve spent the last few years writing technical documents and saving them all in one gigantic folder. If that’s your process, it’s time to change it. 

Your readers will thank you for making their lives easier by organizing your document so that they can quickly find what they need. 

A good file system will make it easy for you as well: if an editor asks for a revision or a proofreader asks if there’s any more work to do on a section, being able to find your revisions quickly will save everyone time and effort!

When organizing files, use a system that makes sense to both yourself and others (or at least mostly others). 

This means using a naming convention that isn’t overly complicated but also explains what kind of file it is as best as possible without being too vague or long-winded; also include some other information like who wrote/created each document within it (if applicable). 

Finally, use labels within these folders so that sections and subsections can be easily found throughout the entire body of work, and make sure there are enough labels so they don’t repeat themselves unnecessarily!

Let The Author’s Voice Be Heard

One of the things I learned about technical writing is that a writer needs to be allowed to write like themselves. Some people are more formal and verbose than others; some people prefer shorter sentences and fewer words; some people like to use lots of passive voice, while others prefer active voice; and so on. 

When you edit someone else’s work, it’s important not to try and make them sound like they aren’t who they are (unless you have an editor who prefers their writers to mimic another style).

The way you write will reflect your personality, which can help readers connect with your content. For example: if we were writing an article together about how to get started with technical writing, I would probably start by saying something like “Hey there! 

Thanks for stopping by today! Today we’re going over one way that could help kickstart your career as a technical author” You might be more inclined towards something like: “Welcome fellow writer! Today we’ll be exploring some ways that could help kickstart yours.

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Embrace A Process Instead Of Trying To Do It All At Once

A process is something you repeat over and over again, to accomplish a result. That’s it. It doesn’t matter if your process only yields a 1% improvement each time; in the end, that’s all you need to create an incredible finished product.

The more I write and publish technical documentation, the more I realize that it’s less about writing everything perfectly at once than it is about doing small things consistently throughout your entire workflow from planning and research through drafting and editing to publishing. 

If you can focus on those smaller tasks instead of just trying to write everything perfectly at once, then your final product will be better because of how much better-informed you were when creating it.

Never Stop Learning

Even if you think you know all the answers, someone else is going to come along who knows more than you do and can help you learn more. Learning from others and your own experience is a great way to keep up with the latest trends in technical writing.

Make mistakes and learn from them. If there’s one thing that I learned about tech writing, it’s that everyone makes mistakes, and those who admit their errors are usually better off for it in the long run! 

The best part about making mistakes is that once they occur, there’s always time afterward for reflection on how things could have gone differently next time around so as not to repeat past mistakes (or at least try not to). 

Always be willing to admit when something didn’t work out perfectly that way, when things go smoothly next time around there will be no question as to what worked well before versus what didn’t work out so well!

Get Fresh Eyes On Your Work

One of the best things you can do to improve your writing is to get a fresh set of eyes on it. If you’re working on a technical piece, someone with an engineering background must check your work. This could be anyone: an intern, a peer at work or school, or even your mom!

If you have no one in mind who can give you feedback on what’s good and what needs improvement (or if this person is too busy), then don’t fret! 

There are plenty of resources available online offering advice from experienced writers. For example, The Write Practice offers tips from professional copywriters on everything from avoiding run-on sentences to creating engaging headlines.

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Develop A Style Guide And Use It Consistently!

A style guide is a set of rules that govern how you format your content. It ensures consistency across documents and makes it easier for readers to understand what they’re reading.

Here are some things to consider about developing a style guide:

Keep it short. A good rule of thumb is that if you can’t remember where something goes, or copy/paste it into your document without looking at the source material (as opposed to having to reference the table of contents), then it shouldn’t be in there!

Organize by function, not by topic. Many people organize their style guides by topic, which doesn’t make sense because then you have an entry on “Style Guide”! 

Instead, I recommend organizing them based on how often they are used: often-used rules should be closer than rarely-used ones; so if someone comes across a rule they don’t know how to use, they will likely look further down rather than searching through each section until they find one that addresses their question or problem with formatting (which could take hours). 

For example: Punctuation Rules > Capitalization Rules > Numbers & Times > Abbreviations & Acronyms > Foreign Words & Phrases> Abbreviations & Acronyms > Foreign Words & Phrases

Power Through Procrastination By Making A List Of The Small Things You Can Do Right Away

  • Make a list of small things you can do right away.
  • Start with the easiest one, then move on to the next one.

Don’t worry about the last one until you’ve finished all of them! It’s quite common to put everything off till tomorrow and then be lost in thought about it when you’re supposed to be working on something else. 

This leads us back into procrastination! This is a vicious cycle that will continue unless we interrupt it by starting now and breaking down our tasks into manageable chunks that don’t require too much mental energy or motivation at once.

I find this method helps me greatly in my personal life as well (and I’m sure any writer would agree) because I often get stuck in loops where I’m thinking about what needs to be done but not doing anything productive even though there’s so much time left in the day! 

The trick here is reaching out for help when needed throughout the process: invite someone over for dinner so they can help with cooking; ask around if anyone has any questions regarding their assignment; go online together via video chat/Skype/etc., etc.; call up some friends who might enjoy getting together anyway.

Don’t stop moving forward out of fear of not finishing everything today!”

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Even If You Think You’re Not A Writer, You Never Know What Skills You Might Discover When You Take On A Challenge

If you don’t think of yourself as a writer, don’t worry. You can learn to be one. And even if you don’t see yourself as a technical writer, it’s worth considering whether your existing skills might make you a better technical writer than the person who does think of themselves that way.

I’m not talking about having some sort of formal education in writing; I’m talking about simply taking on the challenge and doing it, whatever your background or experience level may be. 

When we take on new challenges, we discover new things about ourselves and develop new skills that we didn’t know were there and often those are the very things that allow us to excel at our jobs and boost our careers.


That’s it! Ten lessons learned from the trenches of technical writing. I hope there is something here that will help you in your next writing project and if not, then at least, I hope these tips were entertaining and maybe even inspiring.

Further Reading

Check out these additional resources to enhance your understanding of technical writing:

Top 10 Tips for Great Technical Writing: Discover expert advice and strategies for improving your technical writing skills.

What I’ve Learned in a Year of Technical Writing: Gain insights from an experienced technical writer’s journey and lessons learned over a year.

Reflection on What I Have Learned in Technical Writing: Explore a personal reflection on the learning experiences in the field of technical writing.

And here’s the “FAQs” section with questions and answers:


What are the key tips for successful technical writing?

Successful technical writing involves clarity, conciseness, and a deep understanding of the subject matter. It’s essential to focus on your audience, use appropriate language, and organize information logically.

How can I improve my technical writing skills?

Improving technical writing skills requires practice and continuous learning. You can enhance your skills by studying style guides, receiving feedback, and staying updated on industry trends.

What challenges do technical writers commonly face?

Technical writers often encounter challenges such as simplifying complex concepts, maintaining consistency, and adapting content for different audiences. Overcoming these challenges requires creativity and effective communication strategies.

What is the role of empathy in technical writing?

Empathy plays a crucial role in technical writing as it helps writers connect with their audience. Understanding the users’ needs and perspectives allows writers to create documentation that is user-friendly and helpful.

How does reflective practice benefit technical writers?

Reflective practice encourages technical writers to analyze their experiences, identify areas for improvement, and learn from their mistakes. This self-assessment leads to continuous growth and the development of more effective writing strategies.