Improve Your Technical Writing Skills

So, you have written a few 'instructional' types of things, or you need to do that, but you aren't quite sure how to go about furthering your knowledge of technical writing...

If you stick with the following tips, it won't take long before you're able to proudly add 'technical writer' to your resume.


  1. Enroll in classes or a proper program at a local college. Many polytechnic schools, universities, and community colleges offer courses as well as full and part-time programs in technical and business communication. You might even able to find Find and Go to an Online Class to 'attend'. Some online courses may have a cost to them, others will not.
    • Note: Technical writers come from a diverse range of academic backgrounds, spanning the military to electrical engineering to Swedish literature to theatre. If you were trained in the sciences or trades, focus on your communication skills. If you were trained in the arts, focus on your technical skills. Take courses, enroll in certificate programs, or teach yourself through books.
  2. Obtain books on technical writing from bookshops or libraries. The more informed you are about the field of technical communication, the better a technical writer you will be. Such books will teach you about technical writing style, different types of technical writing, how to build and manage your career, and a range of other useful tidbits.
  3. Master and keep up with computer software. Technical communication is a digital entity. You need to intimately know communication and digital publishing software such as Microsoft Office, Adobe FrameMaker, Adobe PhotoShop, and Adobe RoboHelp; Social Media such as LinkedIn, Yammer, Twitter, and WordPress; and Markup languages such as HTML, XML, and CSS. Specific industries may call for knowledge of other tools such as DITA, Dreamweaver, Java, database languages, AutoCAD or others.
  4. Establish what type of technical writing you want to pursue and who your audience is. Ask yourself, are you writing and editing for civil engineers or mad scientists or basement-dwelling hackers or Joe Average? Are you developing online help or parts manuals or memos or corporate e-mails? The number of fields and types of communication that technical writing covers is limitless.
  5. Practice what you've learned. While most people don't forget how to 'write' per se, specialty types of writing takes practice and a desire to improve. One sound way of going about this is by developing and maintaining wikiHow articles.
  6. Edit others' technical writing. This will sharpen your eye for detail as well as expose you the style and nuances of various types of technical writing out there, i.e. academic papers in the sciences, sets of instructions, reports, catalogues, etc.
  7. Join your local chapter of the Society for Technical Communication or STC. Becoming an STC member will open your doors to professional development training, writing competitions and prizes, mentorship programs, volunteering opportunities, job postings, networking with other technical writers, and a host of other career-related benefits. It also shows employers that you take your professional writing seriously.
  8. Make friends with your dictionary, thesaurus, and any technical literature you can find. Sound technical writing involves being precise with words, language, and information - it's as simple as that.
  9. Use present tense and keep sentences simple. These two rules are imperative for making information as clear and accessible as possible. Keep in mind that your audience may have range of reading comprehension levels. Also, if you are writing for an international audience, try to avoid local idioms such as "the cat's pajamas" or "easy as pie"---such concepts do not easily translate across languages or cultures.
  10. Keep a notebook of your mistakes from your writing and tips you learn. Trial and error is one of the best ways to learn. Don't be afraid to make mistakes and take criticism, you will improve with time and practice.
  11. Develop reading and business knowledge of a second language. This is important if you work in an international or multilingual context. It opens doors and breaks barriers between you and your client/employer and it enables you to cross-check the quality of translated (localized) technical documents as well as potentially translate technical documentation yourself. Consider languages with major technical, scientific, or academic output as German, Spanish, French, Russian, or even Japanese!


  • Technical writing is also referred to as 'technical communication', a term more broad in scope that can cover related fields such as science writing, medical writing, technical editing, technical translation, content strategy, etc. Technical writers can thus also be referred to as technical communicators.
  • Technical communication is always evolving. Never let your knowledge become stagnant. If you find your interest waning, try changing approaches. Instead of writing them, maybe edit or research them.
  • Technical communication often overlaps with business communication and copywriting depending on the field you write for. What distinguishes you is that you write to inform, be it through a user manual, online help, or a corporate e-mail.
  • If you work in computer/software field, make it a priority to understand the Systems Development Life Cycle (SDLC).[1]
  • Being technically competent and trained does not equate to writing well technically. Many engineers, designers and scientists benefit from using a good writer who is well versed in translating technical language into layperson's language. This is not a failure; it is simply a good use of different people's skill sets.

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