Elaine's Understanding of Technical Writing in the Digital Age

Woman in orange sweater typing on computer
Photo Credit: Unsplash.com, photo by Christin Hume

Initial Thoughts

If I had been asked before this week’s lessons about my understanding of technical writing in the digital age, my immediate answer would have been simply something like, “Technical writing plus computers equals technical writing in the digital age.” What more could there be really? We simply write using computers now! But thankfully, I’ve since gleaned a more nuanced take on the concept.

Since I grew up with computers being one of the main modes for information, I hadn’t really considered why digital information is so important and how it has changed our relationship with media as digital modes have evolved to become our main sources for information over time.

After reading our prompt for this post, technical writing in the digital age seemed like too broad a topic. I also noticed that I automatically thought of it as “technical writing about technology,” with user manuals coming to mind, though I knew that was a bit of a simplification. While technical writing often centers around technology and how to use it, it is much more than that and the phrase technical writing in the digital age takes on more meaning after this week’s readings.

After the Readings

My understanding of technical writing in the digital age now, after our initial class readings, is that technical writing and digital writing have merged in the hopes of providing accessibility and fostering understanding within various discourse communities as well as wider audiences. And as graduate students, we should be aware of the importance of this “synergy,” as Dr. Lucas refers to it, and how to go about creating digital technical writing that is effective, accessible, and provides ample opportunities for our readers to learn and understand.

The readings also taught me that, sometimes, technical writing is full of jargon that is written for groups of people with an already assumed amount of understanding. This can cause the information in technical writing to be less accessible for someone outside of an intended audience. However, our digital age allows, perhaps arguably requires, this information to be presented in easier to consume formats, widening an audience and making information easier to understand in general.

This first lesson has also pointed out that technical writing in the digital age takes many forms and has broadened the definition of what is considered technical writing, such as podcasts, videos, and infographics.  Materials such as user manuals and grants pop in my mind when I think of technical writing, so considering these other modes as possibilities is exciting and encouraging as I have some experience with them already while creating grants and user manuals are forms of technical writing I have not tried yet.

I also found it helpful to consider the importance of digital literacy. I consider myself to be digitally literate, and I am glad that I have been taught how to use computers since I was small because it greatly impacts my ability as a student and writer in this digital age. Not everyone has digital literacy and keeping that in mind will also be important when crafting technical writing materials—the easier it is to access and use for as many people as possible, the better!

Applications

I think the first most applicable part of the lesson this week is the methodology that was presented for making sure we are combining digital and technical writing most effectively. It will be helpful for the rest of this course and as I carry on through my career; it has already given me a couple of ideas for my personal digital portfolio—I can make it more interactive and engaging, for example, by including videos perhaps.

Another applicable part of this class is the wiki experience we are going to be getting. I don’t have much to say regarding wiki writing yet other than I am excited and a little overwhelmed by it all—the general rules for formatting will take some time to learn and adjust to but, at the same time, seem easily accessible for those of us who are new to wiki writing.

It is also going to be important for me to remember the purpose of digital writing—to provide accessibility, interactivity, and adaptability. Understanding that digital writing has a purpose above simply being the way we go about things now helps me put this class and its importance into perspective.

On an end note, I appreciated the breakdown of “technical writing,” “digital writing,” and then the combination of them both in “technical writing in the digital age” for this first lesson. I think it helped me get a better grasp of the purpose of this course.

Elaine Streeter

Elaine Streeter

Elaine is a creative and professional writer based in Columbus, GA.