​When people hear the phrase technical writing, they often hear something like:
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        nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat.
The phrase is a bit of a black box—it seems to suggest specialized knowledge, in-the-know readers, and complicated style.
 
But the real purpose of technical writing is to clarify
to clearly and efficiently transfer information to readers (see, for example, the inimitably easy-to-read Nikon D7000 User Manual):
​For most businesses, technical writing is obligatory work. Because few departments employ a dedicated technical writer, the task of writing guidelines, manuals, specs, directories, releases, and other informational or action-oriented material typically falls on the shoulders of the (collectively recognized) best writer on staff.
 
Best writer on staff? We’re here to help.

 
Successful execution of technical writing depends on five general principles: committing to the process, articulating the purpose, identifying the audience, determining the organizational schema, and using precise and concise language to convey the content.
Let’s fill that out:

  • Process: Technical writing is multistep and collaborative. The best writer on staff approaches the job as a project manager—​identifying a team of contributors, setting a schedule, managing the team, and assembling the final piece.
  • Purpose: Technical writing transfers information. The best writer on staff determines what (exactly) readers need to know or be able to do after the transfer.
  • Audience: Technical writing is intended for particular readers. The best writer on staff knows whether readers are new or experienced; whether they need a little or a lot of context; whether they need to absorb or to execute.
  • Organization: Technical writing is purposefully organized. The best writer on staff knows that if the purpose is to simply inform, a chronological or cause-and-effect schema is best; if the purpose is to also instruct, a sequential schema may be better.
  • Language: Technical writing is formal but not flowery, concise but not cryptic. The best writer on staff knows that language should (usually) be active, precise, accessible, and consistent.


Technical writing can be intimidating—there can be reams of information to condense, and the stakes can be relatively high. (And then, of course, there are the not-at-all-insignificant elements of style and format.) But keeping these five principles in mind ensures that the best writer on staff approaches the project with confidence.