Defining Technical Communication

Technical communication is a broad field and includes any form of communication that exhibits one or more of the following characteristics:

  • Communicating about technical or specialized topics, such as computer applications, medical procedures, or environmental regulations.
  • Communicating by using technology, such as web pages, help files, or social media sites.
  • Providing instructions about how to do something, regardless of how technical the task is or even if technology is used to create or distribute that communication.

The value that technical communicators deliver is twofold: They make information more useable and accessible to those who need that information, and in doing so, they advance the goals of the companies or organizations that employ them. The following examples illustrate the value of the products technical communicators produce or the services they provide.

  • Software instructions help users be more successful on their own, improving how easily those products gain acceptance into the marketplace and reducing costs to support them.
  • Medical instructions help patients and care-providers manage a patient’s treatment, improving the health of the patient while reducing costs and risks associated with incorrect care.
  • Functional specifications and proposals help one group of technical experts communicate effectively with other technical experts, speeding up development cycles, reducing rework caused by misunderstandings, and eliminating risks associated with miscommunication.
  • Training programs provide people with new or improved skills, making them more employable and their organizations and products more efficient and safe.
  • Well-designed websites make it easier for users to find information, increasing user traffic to and satisfaction with those websites.
  • Technical illustrations clarify steps or identify the parts of a product, letting users focus on getting their task done quickly or more accurately.
  • Usability studies uncover problems with how products present themselves to users, helping those products become more user friendly.

The following is a partial list of the different jobs within technical communication:

  • Technical Writers & Editors
  • Indexers
  • Information Architects
  • Instructional Designers
  • Technical Illustrators
  • Globalization & Localization Specialists
  • Usability & Human Factors Professionals
  • Visual Designers
  • Web Designers & Developers
  • Teachers & Researchers of Technical Communication
  • Trainers and E-Learning Developers

What all technical communicators have in common is a user-centered approach to providing the right information, in the right way, at the right time to make someone’s life easier and more productive.