Technical writing gets its name for a good reason: it covers complex topics that the average person might not understand. Think engineering, SAAS and scientific content. But technical writing isn’t always read by technical experts.
A technical writer probably wrote the instruction manual for your phone, but the average phone user doesn’t have much technical knowledge about phones, so it’s important to get the balance right.
Where should you draw the line? As a copywriting agency, we’ve learned a lot about how to approach technical assignments. It’s time to share it with you.
First, we have to answer the question at the tip of many people’s tongues when it comes to this question. As we’ve said, the average person doesn’t have great technical knowledge. Even somebody who understands SAAS (for example) well in general might not know much about how one specific business works.
Most technology companies these days offer very specific products that fall within a particular niche, and it’s likely that nobody understands their product or service better than the team themselves.
This is an enormous strength for sales pitches and questions, but not for writing.
Anyone who has worked in the technology industry for years will probably struggle to remember how it felt to not understand their product or service perfectly. A good technical writer doesn’t need to be a genius or a tech whizz. They need to build a bridge between the average Joe and the Chief Technology Offer.
So, to answer the original question: technology firms do need a writer. A competent writer should cut out the jargon and put their point across in the clearest way possible.
If you’re apprehensive about leaving the jargon out, it can help to look at some copywriting examples.
Let’s go back to the instruction manual for a phone. The reader doesn’t need to know the nitty-gritty of what each technical component is and how it works. They just want to know how to start their phone as quickly as possible.
The same thing applies to an advert for a new technology product or car. Most people just want to know why an item will help them or improve their life – jargon gets in the way of this.
By using very technical language, you’re excluding anyone who isn’t an industry specialist or insider. Great for B2B firms who want to communicate to a specific clientele; disastrous for companies who want to sell to a wide variety of customers.
For mass appeal, simplicity is essential.
However, you can’t omit important information just because it’s too technical or complex to explain. If there’s a piece of regulation the reader needs to know about, you need to let them know, even if it’s confusing to them.
A copywriting service can help you to know when jargon is necessary.
A natural worry of technology companies is that a writer could dumb down their value proposition to the point where it no longer accurately represents their product or service. This is a valid worry, but no skilled technical writer would allow it to happen.
Think of it like this: technology copywriting involves layers of content. The top layer should be the most accessible part and contain universally understood information. As the copy progresses to deeper layers, things can begin to get slightly more complicated – but hopefully, the reader will have built up some knowledge and context by this point.
Assume zero prior knowledge at the beginning but allow yourself to teach your audience and introduce novel concepts to them. A skilled technical writer should be able to write for both a sophisticated and novice audience simultaneously.
Quality technical writers also use a clear, confident tone to put across their information. Don’t try to keep everything so basic that they think you don’t know what you’re talking about!
There’s no one right way to produce excellent technical writing – every writer will approach tasks slightly differently. However, there are a few key elements that can help you to succeed.
Firstly, ask questions. As mentioned already, the job of a technical writer is to bridge the gaps between experts and outsiders, so get into the role and ask what the average person wishes they had a chance to.
Break things down. Not just complicated technical concepts, but also your writing style. By ditching long sentences and paragraphs in favour of shorter sections, the reader can follow the content more easily.
Finally, obey basic writing rules. Although it can seem miles apart, technical writing isn’t actually that different from any other type of writing. So, go back to basics. Use subheadings, stick to one idea per sentence, and use the active voice.
As the tech sector continues to boom and grow, the demand for technical writing will only increase.
However, there are a few obstacles blocking progress currently. The sector is fast moving so companies often struggle to put the time into marketing and advertising their products, focusing instead on creating the products.
Undoubtedly, firms that can see the bigger picture and plan ahead will have a competitive advantage in the years to come. The best technology companies have specialist writers with a background in their field of expertise.
Another challenge is the constant introduction of new platforms, products, and ideas. Writers need to stay on top of this to do their job effectively.
Technical writing is a requires both an interest in technology and a knack for simplifying ideas. It’s a relatively unusual skillset and one that most technical experts in companies don’t possess, creating the need to outsource.
But finding the right freelancer can be tough.
At Woo, we’re a copy and content writing service with a track record of producing excellent technical writing for even the most complex business models. If you need help with your content, get in touch.