What makes a great technical copywriter?

What makes a great technical copywriter?

There is huge demand for technical copywriters, and those few who master this skill are guaranteed to be rarely out of work. There is good reason for this – technical copywriting is built on two very different foundations: technical expertise and writing ability. Just like making mayonnaise, technical copywriters have to carefully blend together two ingredients that do not naturally want to combine.

In addition, rather than writing for an uninformed audience (common practice for most copywriters), technical copywriters are required to write for individuals who are as (or in many cases more) experienced than themselves.

Each point they make, therefore, has to be carefully considered, to avoid leaving the author open to criticism. Consequently, technical copywriting tends to be done by the most experienced writers, the cream of the crop.

Technical writers are called on to complete a wide range of copywriting jobs, including:

  • Article writing
  • Producing web copy
  • User manuals
  • Sales sheets
  • Marketing material
  • Whitepapers

If you’re considering a career in technical copywriting, or are searching for a writer for article writing (or any of the above services), there are a number of things to consider – characteristics that make for a great technical copywriter.

1. A clear writing style

It’s easy for a writer get lost amidst reams and reams of technical jargon when tackling more complex topics. It is of fundamental importance that technical copywriters keep their writing clear, concise and easy to follow. Verbose, overly complicated sentences and paragraphs are to be avoided at all cost.

Technical copywriters tend to approach projects as if they were writing user manuals – creating short sentences, with one, clear instruction per point. Similarly, when it comes to article writing, technical copywriters will utilise subheadings, numbered bullet points and even charts, tables, pictures and diagrams to help them get their point(s) across.

2. Research and analytical skills

Research and analytical skills are perhaps the most important characteristics of a technical copywriter. Of course, all copywriting jobs require a degree of information gathering; however, it’s fair to say that technical writing requires a more advanced level of research and analysis – the toughest jobs may even require degree-level expertise.

Coupled with the ability to research a project thoroughly is the ability to critically analyse any information that is unearthed. The sources of all information, for example, have to be carefully interrogated, as do the key points.

3. Communication: understand your audience

You may have the necessary technical expertise, and have thoroughly researched your topic, but if you do not possess the talent to communicate your points you cannot be a successful technical copywriter.

In addition to a clear writing style (see point 1), understanding your audience is key to good communication. For example, article writing for individuals without any existing knowledge of the subject area requires a completely different approach to article writing for an audience of experts.

4. Keeping it interesting

It is easy for technical copywriting to quickly become dull and boring. This is simply because most technical documents by necessity have to contain lots of detailed information.

However, the best technical copywriters have a natural instinct for keeping their work interesting – there are many ways to do this:

  • Focus on the benefits of the services or products they are talking about
  • Include examples of usage in user manuals
  • Talk about why the reader needs the product
  • Keep work concise, clearly laid out, neatly presented and to the point

5. Knowledge

Technical writers are required to have, at the very least, a basic working knowledge of their subject area. Of course, it goes without saying the more complex the project the greater the required knowledge base.

Most technical writers will have a strong background in their chosen field (whether through a previous career or education), in addition to a solid body of work. The best advice for those starting out as technical writers is to build a portfolio slowly and carefully. Be fairly choosy with the projects you take on to begin with as these will influence future ventures.

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Technical copywriters are faced with a unique challenge: making products and services easier to understand whilst simultaneously making them more attractive to users. This requires writers to combine technical expertise with writing ability – two skills that do not always neatly dovetail together. The upshot of this is that good technical writers are in high demand.