5 Types of Technical Writing

Updated on November 18th, 2020
5 Types of Technical Writing

If you're a content writer in 2021, you'll almost always have a job that pays well. This is especially true for writers with a background in technical communication and end-user documentation. Plus, since there are so many different types of technical writing, chances are you'll find a rewarding job in at least one of them.

The job variety you'll find in technical writing is what makes the profession so in-demand right now. In case you're currently on a job hunt as a technical writer, you're in luck. If you're interested in learning about the different types via video, then watch below. Otherwise, skip ahead.

In this article, you'll find the 5 most mainstream types of technical writing that you can make a lucrative career out of. 

Let's dive right in. 

5 Main Types of Technical Writing for Writers in 2021 

From detail-oriented technical reports to extensively researched white papers, the examples of technical writing span dozens of industries and operations. 

Additionally, this genre of content is so commonplace that we all come across several types of technical documents at every step of our life and career.

It's an expansive field, filled with countless niches of its own. However, for the sake of clarity, here are the 5 most prevalent types of technical writing that you can adopt as a career.

1. Medical and Scientific Papers

Technical writing within the medical and science realm comes under the traditional technical writing umbrella. 

This was the first example of taking technical information and modifying it to make it understandable for a specific audience. 

This type of academic is used by researchers to interpret their findings, organize and condense them into engaging content, and publish it in various journals, newsletters, and online platforms.  

The skill requirements for medico-scientific papers include:

  • Exceptional attention to detail, especially when breaking down high-value experiments and findings
  • A high level of accuracy when inserting names, dates, citations, etc.
  • Effective organizational skills, especially when taking all the raw data and organizing it into a user-friendly content form
  • A flair for authority and credibility that lends itself very well to academic in general

Since this type of is mostly consumed by students and professionals already in those fields, it also requires a thorough understanding of how those individuals consume their content.

2. User Manuals/Assistance Guides

User guides are a common form of technical writing that even non-technical professionals come across. 

This type looks to answer specific usage-related questions for consumer products, and improve the end-user experience for everyone.

User help guides means breaking down the product into its constituent parts, explaining how each part functions, and answering questions related to what solutions each part (and the whole) offers. Furthermore, it involves answering queries that come up as consumers use the product for an extended period of time. 

If you're interested in learning how to write better user guides and other technical documentation, then check out our Technical Writing Certification Course.

The skill requirements for writing user guides include:

  • Thorough knowledge of how to organize instruction manuals into stages and sections based on how the product works
  • A knack for creating solution-oriented content that perfectly explains how to solve a specific problem
  • Complete understanding of each product, down to how the product is built and how it's better for the user overall
  • A direct and no-frills style with clear and concise points and minimal use of fluff or filler content

Product manual or repair manual writers can find jobs with a wide range of employers, from copywriting firms to production companies. However, it's a somewhat limited field of technical writing, so look for an employer that offers progressive growth when applying for a job in this genre. 

3. Technical Books and Guides

Writing technical books and long-form guides is different from the previous genre simply due to the length of the content, how it's based on concepts more than products, and the amount of detail they go into.

This type of writing is also used as an extension of a simple user guide. It talks about the intentions and purpose behind the product (usually software products), as well as why it is built that specific way, i.e. concepts.

Interestingly, even though they are more detailed, technical books have to be written in a way that any type of user can comprehend what's written.

The skill requirements for writing this form of technical documentation include:

  • The ability to transform complex, jargon-heavy information into simplified and informative content
  • Complete understanding of the formatting, structure, pacing, and length that’s ideal for this type of document
  • Knowledge of when and how to insert visual aids such as graphs, images, and tables to make the content more engaging
  • Some experience in writing long-form content on a variety of subjects

These books can also take the form of troubleshooting guides for software programs. In this role, they have to account for all the possible problems the program could run into and explain solutions for each one.

4. Assembly Manuals 

Probably the most common form of technical writing in a company's mechanical maintenance department, assembly and repair manuals are another niche form of technical writing.

This is due to the technical skills required to understand the disassembly and re-assembly process of a specific machine or piece of equipment. Most general repair guides contain a variety of assembly manuals for various types of machinery.

Assembly guides are different from any other form of technical communication because most (if not all) companies require you to have the ability to actually perform disassembly. 

The skill requirements for assembly manuals and guides include:

  • A theoretical and practical understanding of the equipment and repair processes involved
  • Experience working with and repairing machinery of a similar type or function
  • Ability to research (to find better, more efficient disassembly and repair processes)
  • Extensive knowledge of how production lines work and how to keep the machinery operating optimally

While it's true that most companies are basically looking for a technician with writing skills when putting an assembly manual job out there, some do accept career writers as long as they're willing to take online help and learn about said processes.

5. Technical Reviews and Reports

Technical reports are usually classified under the corporate content development umbrella due to their usage in stakeholder meetings, proposals, and business pitches. 

It's another versatile form of that's a mix between academic reporting and technical research-based guides. A technical report is any document that explains the process and outcome of any type of research, be it scientific or business-centric.

Technical reports come in several forms, such as feasibility reports, primary research reports, business plans and prospectuses, short-form proposals, press releases, case studies, etc. 

The skill requirements for assembly manuals and guides include:

  • High-level understanding of the process that's under focus, as well as how similar processes progress over time
  • Complete knowledge of the , as well as it's past, current, and (proposed) future operations
  • The ability to communicate in a business-savvy manner while also maintaining an adequate amount of technical know-how in the content
  • Excellent English language skills with an emphasis on to convey a business message

Technical reports are important parts of corporate operations. This makes the job quite well-paying in most cases. 

How to Be a Great Technical Writer in 2021

When it comes to academic skills such as writing and linguistics, there is no substitute for an education that supports the skills. 

The same is mostly true for technical writing, with the only caveat being that you need to be knowledgeable in the actual technical processes as well. 

But simply education and technical knowledge won't bring you career success as a technical writer in 2021. In this day and age, you need a few more skill pointers to become a great writer.

Here they are:

  • Research Skills: The ability to perform extremely detailed research is the cornerstone of a successful career. Most forms of technical  involve some form of research and study before the actual bit. Make sure to develop the ability to research extensively and be highly observant throughout the research to find the most valuable points for your content. 
  • Efficient Planning: Unless you have an unlimited timeline to develop your technical content, you will need to learn how to manage your research, outlines, content writing, and distribution efficiency. Planning for the content ahead of time, or developing a system to quickly wrap up high-level content will help you stick to deadlines without compromising on quality.
  • Observation Skills: Most technical content is long-form and involves a heavy amount of complex data points. These can be easily overlooked if you don't pay attention when aligning the data points in the right place. Make sure to work on developing a keen sense of observation which will help you pick valuable data from a sea of random information.
  • Being Tech-Savvy: Being in the digital age, there's really no excuse for not being familiar with content development software systems in 2021, especially if you want to develop more high-quality content, in a shorter time, and deliver it successfully. If you're not already, be sure to take online courses in content writing software systems before applying for a job.

These technical writing skills will help you succeed in your career. Additionally, make sure that this type of content really appeals to you as a writer and that you're willing to explore the various sides of it throughout your career. 

Final Thoughts

According to the BLS, the vast majority of technical writers make over six figures a year. This makes it one of the best paying jobs in the professional field.

To ensure that you go above and beyond that sooner in your career, find out where your strengths lie, what skills the host companies value, and apply for jobs accordingly. 


If you are new to technical writing and are looking to break in, we recommend taking our Technical Writing Certification Course, where you will learn fundamentals of being a technical writer, how to dominate technical writer interviews, and how to stand out as a technical writing candidate.