Technical writing isn’t as simple as sitting down and typing out a document.
Quite to the contrary. Technical writers need to have a solid knowledge of writing processes and styles to ensure their documentation is accurate, consistent, and engaging.
They also need to keep up with the latest advancements in technology and content management practices to make sure their content is relevant and really be good at their jobs.
The comprehensive list of resources you’re about to read is full of websites, books, magazines, blogs, and podcasts that will help you learn the ins and outs of technical writing and produce quality documentation for your business.
Read on and become a master of technical writing!
General Technical Writing Resources
We’re kicking off with a list of general resources that can form a solid foundation of knowledge for all technical writers, regardless of how experienced they are.
Here you’ll find a collection of blogs, magazines, textbooks, and employment resources that cater to technical writers and their craft, so let’s get right into it.
A publication that provides professional advice and insider tips for people working in technical documentation and content management.
Perfect for aspiring technical writers as well as veterans in the field.
The Society for Technical Communication (STC)
The official website of the organization dedicated to advancing the craft of technical communication.
It has over 23,000 members so it may present you with great networking opportunities.
While the previous entry on this list was their website, this is the official magazine of the STC.
If you want to stay current with the latest news about the technical communication industry, it might be a good idea to sign up.
A free, online textbook that will provide new writers with valuable knowledge on writing processes, document design, and applications for technical writing.
It even comes with handy examples!
The best technical writers are generalists, so why not check out some resources not directly tied to writing and documentation? Take a look at a couple of them below.
A collection of resources that focus on human-computer interaction (HCI).
As technical documentation is mostly written for humans interacting with computers, this should be a great source of academic information and professional advice for a deep dive into the theory behind HCI.
On the subject of computer users, you may also want to check out this magazine.
It’s dedicated to studying and improving user experience (UX), which is very important for technical writers who want their readers to have the best possible experience using a product.
Last but not least, if you’re trying to find work as a technical writer, these employment resources should help you on the way.
A good place to find job postings specifically for writers. The website caters to all sorts of writers but you shouldn’t have any trouble finding writing work in a technical field either.
U.S. News Technical Writer Overview
Before you start your job hunt, it might be a good idea to find out more about the profession of technical writing.
This site will give you a lot of useful information on the requirements and skills you need to pursue this career. It also features salary ranges so you can start applying well prepared.
With a good grasp of what it really means to be a technical writer, it’s time to start honing your skills and increasing your knowledge of the technical writing process, which is what the next section is all about.
Technical Writing Books
If you want to become a master of your craft, you’re going to need to do some studying.
The following list represents a selection of books written on the art and science of technical communication, writing, and content management.
Let’s flip through them, shall we?
The Chicago Guide to Communicating Science (Scott L. Montgomery)
Technical writing requires you to communicate complex processes and explain technical concepts in a simple way.
This guide will help you get these complicated ideas across to the reader with clarity and ease, making sure your audience understands everything you need to convey.
It’s one of the best books available on this subject.
Communication of Complex Information (Michael J. Albers)
Similarly to Scott L. Montgomery’s guide, this book is also concerned with simplifying complex topics and presenting large sets of information in an easily digestible way.
However, where the first book we’ve mentioned explores how complex ideas are communicated, this one is all about information analysis.
It will tell you how to curate information and transfer only what is necessary.
Content and Complexity: Information Design in Technical Communication (Michael J. Albers, Beth Mazur, editors)
This book is a primer on the exciting field of information design—a relatively new field that studies the ways in which information can be presented for easy consumption.
As this book was written specifically for technical writers, we definitely recommend putting it on your reading list.
Content Strategy in Technical Communication(Giuseppe Getto, Jack Labriola, editor, Sheryl Ruszkiewicz, editor)
Writing according to a set strategy is a powerful tool for technical writers.
This book presents the readers with valuable research on the topic of content strategy, as well as a wealth of information regarding digital tools used by content professionals.
Practical Strategies for Technical Communication: A Brief Guide (Mike Markel and Stuart A. Selber)
Another strategy guide for technical writers.
This book is more practical and less academic, so it will provide you with actionable tips to make your work easier as you plan your writing.
User Guides, Manuals, and Technical Writing: a Guide to Professional English(Adrian Wallwork)
This is a more practical guide to the language and style of technical writing. It’s aimed at non-native speakers of English, but anyone can use it to learn about technical writing.
A Scientific Approach to Writing for Engineers and Scientists (Robert E. Berger)
An excellent choice for technical writers who don’t have a degree in English or lots of writing experience.
The book is designed with engineers and scientists in mind and readers report enjoying the simple and engaging style in which it was written.
Technical Editing (Carolyn D. Rude; Angela Eaton)
Finally, this is a good choice for technical editors as well as writers who want to know more about the editing process or need to self-edit their work.
It comes with many relevant examples which break down the editing process and present it to the reader.
Technical Writing Style Guides
Wiring a clear and engaging technical document is already a huge challenge. However, a technical writer’s job doesn’t end there.
They also need to ensure that all of the documents they create follow a consistent style.
That’s exactly what technical writing style guides are for. They represent a set of rules and instructions that, when followed closely, produce clear and consistent documentation.
We definitely recommend opting for a style guide to lead your writing, but we also want you to leave room for innovation and creativity, just like the official Google Style Guide says:
So, without further ado, here are some of the most reputable technical writing styles for you to choose from.
Let’s start with some general style guides. These are intended for all types of writers, so they should give you a solid foundation for your writing practices.
These are large volumes, so some patience will be required.
Next, here’s a couple of style guides intended specifically for technical writers.
- The Handbook of Technical Writing
- Simplified Technical English
- Read Me First!: A Style Guide for the Computer Industry
After that, let’s take a look at style guides developed for writing technical documentation relevant to major software products and services.
These can show you some tried and true methods for writing technical documentation for software.
- The Apple Style Guide
- The IBM Style Guide online
- The Google Style Guide
- The Style Guide for the Atlassian Developer Documentation
- The Red Hat Style Guides
- Salesforce Style Guide
- Mailchimp Style Guide
Last but not least, these are good examples of style guides that detail industry-specific rules for writing documentation.
The former is intended primarily for the aerospace industry, while the guidelines from the latter, as the name suggests, are favored by the U.S. Military.
There are many similar guides, so with a bit of persistence, you will likely be able to find something for your own industry.
We know this is a lot of literature to go through, but you really don’t need to become familiar with everything on this list.
A good way forward would be to select a general style guide and supplement it with a guide that best matches the nature of your product.
Technical Writing Blogs to Follow
Looking at all of these books and guides, you might get the impression that technical writing is a skill that, once learned, never really changes.
Not so. The craft of technical writing is always evolving with new practices and technology you can integrate into your work.
Therefore, it’s a good idea to stay current with technical writing news and trends. To make sure you’re on top of the game, why not follow a couple of technical writing blogs?
Here are some quality examples.
An interesting blog by an experienced technical writer working for Google. It explores technical innovations and trends pertinent to technical writing and has a particularly popular course on API documentation.
A great resource for exploring technical writing tools.
The blog gives an overview of some of the most used authoring, content management, editing, and delivery tools, as well as a helpful section with tips for choosing the right tools.
You might find great value in this long-running article and podcast series which covers everything related to technical writing.
The blog is run by experienced pros so you know you’re getting reliable information straight from the source.
This blog has a ton of amazing how-to articles you can use to troubleshoot some problems you face in your work or learn about new processes and technology in the field.
For example, it features a whole series of articles dedicated to using GitHub as a content management system.
To recap, it’s important to stay on top of new trends in technical writing.
These blogs represent a couple of trustworthy sources for doing just that but do keep an eye out for more podcasts, blogs, and influencers to follow so that you can keep developing your skills.
With this comprehensive list of technical writing resources, nothing can stop you from becoming an elite technical writer in your field.
Remember, true skill comes from having good knowledge about writing styles and processes, as well as keeping up with the trends that are shaping modern technical writing.
Your next step is to select your favorite resources from this list and get busy reading.