What are the characteristics of technical writing?

The following are the characteristics of technical writing:

  • Addresses a specific audience, topic and purpose


    Technical writers identify the readers to whom they are writing evaluate what they require of the documentation and determine why they will use documentation. They classify the readers by three main characteristics:

    • Education
    • Knowledge and experience levels
    • Expectations and needs

Based on the knowledge level, you can categorize the audience as novice, intermediary or experienced user. The content of the document will vary depending on the categorization.


Topic involves the gist of what technical writers are planning to write about. For example, in a document that explains how the retailer book an order with the wholesaler, the topic will be “Booking an Order”.


Purpose will reflect the activity the audience wants to be able to perform after reading the document.

Your purpose could be:

  • To inform – to provide the information without expecting any action on the part of the reader.
  • To instruct – to give information in the form of directions, instructions,

procedures, so that readers will be able to do something.

  • To propose – to respond to a request for proposals (RFP) or to suggest a plan of action for a specific problem.
  • To recommend – to suggest an action or series of actions based on

alternative possibilities that have been evaluated.

  • To persuade: to convince readers to take action, to change their attitudes or behaviours based on valid opinions and evidence.
  • Has structured content

The structure of the document is an important aspect of the documentation development. It would depict how one section would flow into another and the segregation between chapters and appendices.

  • Is objective

Technical writing is rarely about opinion. Technical writing is grounded in fact. While writing facts, care is needed to ensure that any assumption, conjecture, extrapolation, generalisation, opinion or possibly mentioned early in the document is not later referred to as if it were a fact. Technical writers rely on evidence and not authority.

  • Uses simple and objective language

    Technical writers keep sentences as short and simple as is possible and appropriate for the subject matter and audience. A long and complex sentence can be difficult to comprehend.

  • Uses Illustrations

Technical writers consider tables and illustrations as part of a document, not as ornament. They complement the writing. They do not add them at the end as if they were an afterthought. Instead when planning a composition, they consider how information or ideas can be best conveyed – to the readers they have in mind- in words, numbers, tables or illustrations.

  • Is presented consistently

Technical writers are consistent in use of headings, names, terms, abbreviations and symbols; in spelling and punctuation