» ISTCWhat is Technical Communication?

What is Technical Communication?

Technical communication is all around you: user guides, manuals, online information, the internet, content embedded into product design. It includes the instructional material in every day use that we often take for granted. Indeed, some of the most successful technical documentation is that which allows a person to use the subject almost intuitively.

The process of technical communication involves scientific or technical knowledge of the subject, comprehension of how the subject can be used safely and efficiently, and an understanding of how we communicate.

Why do we need technical communication?

We all deal with a host of complex systems at home and at work – from computers to cars, consumer products to business procedures – and the need for accurate and accessible documentation to explain them has never been greater.

Communication is an essential ingredient for the success and quality of any product, service or business. If people cannot use something, or cannot find out how to solve problems they might come across, they are less likely to use or buy your product or service.

Technical communication in the workplace: roles and job titles

Professionals communicators are highly skilled people, experienced and trained in communicating technical information to their audience. Technical communicators who are members of the ISTC have a wide variety of backgrounds, and they work in many fields.

Here are descriptions, prepared by ISTC Members, of the profession of scientific and technical communication:

cover of the CEO and the technical commuicatoristc careers sheetistc careers sheet

In the 26th September 2014 edition of BBC Radio Three’s “The verb” programme, host Ian McMillan discussed the language of instruction manuals with ISTC President Alison Peck (download podcast).

Technical communicators can appear under a number of different job titles in the workplace. These include:

  • Information Designers
  • Publication Managers
  • Documentation Managers
  • Technical Authors
  • Technical Writers
  • Information Developers
  • Content Strategists
  • Illustrators
  • Translators
  • Technical Communicators

It can also be part of other roles, such as:

  • User Interface Designers
  • User Acceptance Testers
  • Information Architects
  • Quality Managers
  • DeskTop Publishers
  • Editors
  • Lecturers/Professors
  • Instructors
  • Engineers
  • Graphic Designers
  • Indexers
  • Multimedia Designers
  • Scientists
  • Software Designers
  • Trainers
  • Webmasters and more!

Your career as a technical communicator

See: Careers in technical communication

What technical communication is not

Generally, the term “technical communication” is not seen as the writing of:

  • Academic papers
  • Instructions for medicines (this is usually known as medical writing)
  • Encyclopaedias
  • Advertisements (this is usually known as copywriting)
  • Novels

Join the ISTC

If you prepare instructional information, be it documents, web pages or technical illustrations, the ISTC is for you.

See: Joining the ISTC