My understanding of technical writing in the digital age

My understanding of technical writing in the digital age
Photo by hannah grace / Unsplash

 Initial Thoughts

 The reading for this week helped give me a better understanding of technical writing in the digital age. Initially, my knowledge of technical writing was that it was a form of writing related to manuals and reports. My understanding of digital writing was associating it with things like blogs and status updates.  Technical writing in the digital age, I assumed, was information and manuals written in a digital aspect, such as online manuals as opposed to hard copy manuals. I am new to technical writing, but I am hoping to expand my knowledge of it during my time in the Technical and Professional Writing program.  

 I would like to think my digital literacy is advanced. I have multiple social media accounts and I am the "tech person" in the family. I am who they turn to when they have an issue with their phone or computer.    

Readings

 From the readings, I learned that technical writing is so much more than manuals and reports. Technical writing is specialized writing written for a specific audience. It is also defined as "the exchange of information that helps people interact with technology and solve problems," by Lannon and Gurak 2022.  In Defining Technical Writing, it is mentioned that most people's form of technical writing is based off of their "discourse community". Different disciplines prioritize different types of language, for example, scientific writing prioritizes impersonal language and literacy studies emphasize personal engagement. Ken Hyland's 2000 analysis also notes that a disciplinary discourse is dynamic, meaning that it is constantly changing based off of borrowing terms and concepts from other fields. To stay on top of the constant changes, the technical writer needs to participate in continuous education.  Continuous education can include formal things like workshops and online classes or informal things like going to conferences or listening to podcasts.  

 It is important for technical writers to fully understand their audience. This will help the writer compose a piece that is beneficial to the reader. In my mind, clarity, accessibility, and usability go hand-in-hand. Clarity is important because you want to speak in a language that the reader is able to understand. Usability and accessibility are important because you want your writing to be available and easy to read for anyone who may need to read your writing. Readers want their answers given to them clearly and quickly, if possible. They do not want to have to decipher the writing to understand what their answer is.

 In the chapter, 'What is Technical Communication,' it emphasizes that because of all the digital communication available to us at our fingertips, we communicate with writing now more than ever. The digital communications also make it easier for people to collaborate on a project even if their schedules do not align. The chapter goes on to say that technical writing is more cut and dry as opposed to writing like poetry or college essays. Rather than making your writing sound "pretty" you want to put the needs of the reader first. Another thing I gleaned from the readings was technical documents are often produced as a team effort. I always assumed it was a one-person job. As the reading states though, in a digital setting, collaborative writing is amplified.  

 As mentioned in The Evolution and Dynamics of Digital Writing, digital literacy is important knowledge in order to be an effective technical writer in the digital age. High digital literacy allows you to use different types of technology in the digital age. Digital literacy is more than technical proficiency. It calls for critical thinking and problem-solving in the digital world. For example, technical proficiency with a program is knowing how to do specified tasks, while high digital literacy in that program would be knowing how to create the steps to solve a task since you understand how the program works. One should attempt to have a strong online presence, consisting of, but not limited to,  personal sites and social media.  


Final Thoughts

 I am hoping this class can improve my skills and knowledge as a technical writer and I am looking forward to learning all I can in these eight weeks. I think digital writing is what excites me the most as a writer because everything is digital nowadays. Even for instruction manuals, I look them up on my phone as it is easier than digging around drawers for a manual I may have tossed somewhere years ago. Technology is only going to become more advanced, so I know this field will leave me constantly learning and striving to know what is next and new in the digital world.  I am looking forward to all this class has to teach me.

Haley Roney

Haley Roney

Haley is a student at Middle Georgia State University. She is currently working on obtaining her Master's degree in Technical and Professional Writing.