After taking this course, my preconceived idea of “technical communication” has changed. I assumed technical communication referred to instructions and scientific discourse. However, now I define technical communication as a broad field with a strong focus on the audience. It uses plain language and aims to explain information in a way that the audience can comprehend. In technical communication, there is no room for connotative meanings and interpretation. Instead, the writing is denotative, explicit, and presented in a way that is useful to the reader.
My definition was influenced by Katherine Durack because she addresses all the necessary elements of technical communication. She explains technical communication as having 3 main characteristics:
1) “Technical [communication] exists within government and industry, as well as in the intersection between private and public spheres.”
2) “Technical [communication] has a close relationship to technology.”
3) “Technical [communication] often seeks to make tacit knowledge explicit.”
Durack’s definition includes every aspect of technical communication. In her 1st characteristic, she addresses the fact that technical communication goes beyond government and industry, and that it exists in private and public spheres as well. This is important because it reminds us that technical communication exists in our everyday lives, and not just in scientific and legal discourse. Whether or not the 2nd characteristic is accurate depends on the way “technology” is defined.
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines technology as:
1 : the practical application of knowledge especially in a particular area
2 : a capability given by the practical application of knowledge
3 : a manner of accomplishing a task especially using technical processes, methods, or knowledge
4 : the specialized aspects of a particular field of endeavor
If you think of technology as strictly computers and electronics, you may argue that technical communication may not necessarily have “a close relationship to technology.” However, if you view technology as a method (or a way of accomplishing a task), then technical communication certainly does have “a close relationship to technology.” Durack’s 3rd characteristic of technical communication is probably the most important because one of the goals of technical communication is to present information in a way that the audience can understand and use.
Learning about technical writing has lead me to appreciate its existence because it would be difficult for society to function without it. Imagine not having road signs, or warning labels, or instruction manuals for your ikea furniture. Everyday tasks would be significantly more difficult if we didn’t have a method of communicating information in a denotative, explicit way that the majority can understand.