It is a truth universally acknowledged that a technical writer in possession of challenging documentation projects must be in want of good books on technical writing.
This list will provide you with a comprehensive list of books that cover the subject of documentation from all angles.
This includes job search, project management, writing practices, technology and tools, and much more.
Take a dive into our little library and become a master of the art of technical writing!
Handbook of Technical Writing
Author: Michelle Carey, Moira McFadden Lanyi, Deirdre Longo, Eric Radzinski, Shannon Rouiller, Elizabeth Wilde
Published: Twelfth edition (June 15, 2020) by Bedford/St. Martin's
Great for: Comprehensive overview of technical writing style and usage
This is one of the most comprehensive resources for technical writing available today.
It explores hundreds of topics, from job searches and career overviews to technology and tools used by technical writers.
The twelfth edition is still very fresh, and its handling of all topics is up-to-date.
The guide is also rich with sample documents, of which there are almost a hundred to choose from, and it’s organized alphabetically so that it can serve as a quick reference for all your technical writing needs.
The Essentials of Technical Communication
Author: Elizabeth Tebeaux, Sam Dragga
Published: 5th edition (November 6, 2020), by Oxford University Press
Great for: Learning to communicate technical information clearly
This textbook teaches the basic principles of clear communication in the workplace by providing a wealth of case studies, scenarios, and sample documents.
These principles are then applied to all forms of communication in the office, including emails, memos, reports, and most importantly, websites and instruction manuals.
To help these lessons stay with the reader, the book offers practical exercises readers can do to self-test their knowledge and new skills.
Technical Writing Process
Author: Kieran Morgan
Published: March 4, 2015, by Better On Paper Publications
Great for: Making technical writing more structured
Kieran Morgan’s simple five-step guide to writing technical documentation is an excellent starting point for writers who want to make their writing process repeatable and more efficient.
The guide covers multiple types of technical documentation, such as manuals, user guides, and procedures.
Like a true technical writer, Morgan uses simple language and a lot of example scenarios to explain the complexities of technical writing.
This is a great feature because it makes the book accessible to everyone interested in technical writing, even readers who haven’t written their first document yet.
The Insider’s Guide to Technical Writing
Author: Krista Van Laan
Published: May 1, 2012, by XML Press
Great for: People considering a career in technical writing
Technical writing is a great career choice for anyone with a penchant for writing and a special interest in technology.
This extensive overview of the technical writing field provides the reader with knowledge of what skills are needed for success in this industry and what steps to take to excel from day one.
It’s also full of helpful tips on handling the pressures and rewards of a technical writing job, making it the perfect choice for anyone considering entering this dynamic field.
Managing Your Documentation Projects
Author: JoAnn T. Hackos
Published: April 6, 1994, by Wiley
Great for: Learning project management principles for documentation
This isn’t a new book, but the lessons contained within it are definitely evergreens.
JoAnn T. Hackos is a veteran project manager and has consulted companies like IBM and Hewlett-Packard on managing their documentation project, so you know she knows her stuff.
Hackos is a master planner, and her book teaches readers to plan their documentation so meticulously that the first draft practically writes itself.
Technical writing isn’t all creativity, so her methodology is definitely worth visiting again and again.
Author: Mike Markel
Published: Bedford/St. Martin's
Great for: Learning about technical writing in a broader sense
Still used as a textbook in many university courses about technical writing, communication, and documentation, Markel’s book provides one of the most comprehensive guides for all kinds of technical communication.
What really makes this book stand out is its practical approach to the subject.
The author provides strategies for writing situations everyone encounters in their professional and personal lives, as well as sample documents for all kinds of writing.
The latest edition of the book can be found here.
Technical Writing For Dummies
Author: Sheryl Lindsell-Roberts
Published: March 13, 2001, by For Dummies
Great for: A beginner’s overview of technical writing
Like most For Dummies books, this one is an excellent choice for anyone who wants to get a nice birds-eye view on topics like the technical writing job market, the process of creating technical documentation, and all kind of different documents that fall under this category.
Sheryl Lindsell-Roberts emphasizes the need for technical documentation to be engaging to really help users achieve their goals and provides ample advice on how to avoid writing tedious and confusing documents, which is a skill every technical writer should master.
Managing Writers: A Real World Guide To Managing Technical Documentation
Author: Richard L. Hamilton
Published: December 31, 2008, by XML Press
Great for: Managing people and projects in documentation
Another guide for project managers in documentation, this time more focused on the people aspect of documentation.
In other words, this is a great resource for technical writers and managers who lead technical writing teams.
The value of this book is that it provides a real-world perspective and doesn’t sugarcoat the ups and downs of working in the documentation.
For anyone considering a career in this field, this book will give you food for thought and help you decide if this is the right industry for you.
The Elements of Technical Writing
Author: Gary Blake, Robert W. Bly
Published: August 1, 1993, by Pearson P T R
Great for: Quick reference for technical writing
A must-have for any technical writer’s desk. The first part of the book is filled with actionable tips for clear, concise, and accurate writing.
This includes common rules like avoiding jargon and proper hyphenation. Every rule is properly explained and supplemented with examples to make these lessons stick.
The other part of the book is dedicated to technical document types and best practices for writing each one.
Some of the information may be a little outdated, but the general principles definitely still apply to modern technical writing.
Is the Help Helpful?
Author: Jean Hollis Weber
Published: November 28, 2004, by Hentzenwerke Publishing
Great for: Writing documentation for customer service
We’ve covered some resources that approach technical writing from a broader perspective, so here’s a book that’s more specialized.
Jean Hollis Weber literally wrote the book on writing documentation intended for customer service and other types of online help.
The book deals with what help guides often get wrong and establishes some principles on providing help literature that actually works for the typical internet user.
There are also some great chapters on prototyping and usability testing which can help writers establish writing processes that do the trick every time.
Technical Writing Basics: A Guide to Style and Form
Author: Brian R. Holloway
Published: 2nd edition (June 1, 2001) by Pearson College Div
Great for: Writing in more informative and persuasive style
This is another commonly found textbook on technical writing. It provides a great look at technical writing as both a career choice and a professional skill.
The author puts great focus on the style of writing as a key component to ensure documentation achieves the goals it sets for itself.
More specifically, the guide teaches the writer how to write informatively and persuasively in order to capture attention and motivate the reader.
A handy feature to take note of are the handy exercises and assignments in the book that are designed to help the writer improve their skills.
Technical Writing 101
Author: Alan S. Pringle, Sarah S. O’Keefe
Published: 3rd edition (May 1, 2009) by Scriptorium Publishing Services, Inc.
Great for: Overview of skills needed for technical writing
A lot of skill goes into creating technical documentation beyond just a talent for writing. Pringle and O’Keefe’s book details what those skills are and how to start acquiring them.
A particularly interesting part of the book focuses on creating content that’s easier to translate into other languages, which is of particular value to technical writers working on documentation for products that are used all over the world.
The third edition also makes reference to the Darwin Information Typing Architecture (DITA) standard for developing documentation which is a valuable tool for writers who want to bring structure to their work.
Technical Writing: A Practical Guide for Engineers and Scientists
Author: Phillip A. Laplante
Published: 2nd edition (August 10, 2018) by CRC Press
Great for: Specialized documentation for engineers and scientists
A practical, clearly written guide for anyone who wants to write about technology and science. And we’re not just talking about guides and manuals here.
This is a resource that will help you write entire books on these subjects in a structured way.
Technical writing books, especially on these complex subjects, are often boring and difficult to get through. But not this one.
Laplante’s guide is chock-full of storytelling and real-life examples that make even the most technical parts of the book easily digestible and interesting to read.
Developing Quality Technical Information: A Handbook for Writers and Editors
Author: Michelle Carey, Moira McFadden Lanyi, Deirdre Longo, Eric Radzinski, Shannon Rouiller, Elizabeth Wilde
Published: 3rd edition (June 23, 2014) by IBM Press
Great for: developing user-centric documentation
When thinking about the best examples of technical documentation, a couple of names probably pop into mind. Google, Microsoft, and IBM, perhaps?
Well, if you want to develop this level of documentation, this guide straight from the minds of IBM’s doc design experts is your best bet.
The book will teach you how to create content that’s truly user-centric by showing you principles like information ordering, content optimization, and methods for providing easy access to users.
We think this covers everything. Having read just a part of this book list, you should be on your way to technical writing stardom.
Don’t forget that there’s much more to life than books, so supplement this list with other resources, like blogs, magazines, and websites, to ensure your skills are always on the cutting edge.
While you’re at it, check out Archbee, our multipurpose documentation tool that will allow you to easily create and share documentation with employees, users, and potential clients.