Category Archives: What is technical communication?

Blog Post #10 (Revisited for Portfolio Use Only)

Technical communication has interested me for several years; mainly due to supporting my father in the review of technical communication as part of his work.  Enrolling in this class has further increased my level of interest on the subject and has certainly made me appreciate its existence and those who shape it. Originally, I held a very simple understanding of technical communication; that it basically dealt with instruction manuals and scientific discourse.  Although still true, that is only a minor aspect in the intricate understanding of technical communication that I have amassed.

The most important aspect I learned this semester is understanding your audience.  The first step to successfully conveying a message is targeting an audience and catering to their needs.  If you fail to attract an audience and keep them attentive, your message has already failed.  I have also learned that technical communication is everywhere: from instruction manuals to road signs to government contracts.  An influential figure in the field of technical communication, Katherine T. Durack makes this observation about the subject in a study for Technical Communication Quarterly:

“Technical writing exists within government and industry, as well as in the intersection between private and public spheres…This action can originate in a variety of settings and for many purposes; such action may occur as part of one’s work for hire or arise from personal interaction with organizations.”

From these statements, it is clear that technical communication is relevant and available to assist with any number of tasks.  There will always be a need for knowledge and no matter the subject; technical communication will effectively convey it.  Furthermore, Durack looks to expand my understanding of technical communication with two more observations from her study.

Her following observation refers to the close relationship between technical communication and technology.  Since technical communication “exists to accomplish something” (Durack), it is logical to assume that technical communicators stay up-to-date on the latest technologies.  For example, a communicator looking to assist users in the installation of a new computer program must himself understand the program before instructing others.  Not only that, Durack states “as Wajcman points out, technology is more than just the latest computer hardware or software on the market.”  Technology also refers to the ways we move forward in life and continue surviving.  Any new technique or skill that benefits an individual is a form of technology and to educate others, technical communication is necessary.


Durack’s last observation focuses on the importance of making “tacit knowledge explicit” in technical communication.  While this characteristic is no surprise, the different approaches to creating and presenting explicit knowledge was new and exciting to learn throughout the semester.  The various design choices including font size, font color, spacing, colors, images, and other aesthetic features greatly influence the effectiveness of technical communication.  These features need to appeal to the audience while keeping them interested yet properly informed.  Plain language should be applied when necessary to make the message clear for the audience.

Overall this class has taught me many different examples of effective technical communication based on audience. In addition, the complexity of technical communication has revealed itself through hands on work and from class readings, including those of Katherine T. Durack.  The small but important details that help harmonize effective technical communication, along with a strong audience connection, has given me a broader understanding and appreciation for technical communication.

Source Cited:

Durack, Katherine T. (1997). Gender, Technology, and the History of Technical Communication. Technical Communication Quarterly, 6(3): 249-60.


What You Need To Know About Technical Communication

'We really need to get on-message about out responsive reciprocal concepts, on-message.'

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According to the Society for Technical Communication, technical communication is a field that includes any form of communication that exhibits one or more of the following characteristics:

  • Communicating about technical or specialized topics, such as computer applications, medical procedures, or environmental regulations.
  • Communicating by using technology, such as web pages, help files, or social media sites.
  • Providing instructions about how to do something, regardless of how technical the task is or even if technology is used to create or distribute that communication.

For me, technical communication is is a field that focuses on providing information to users who need assistance in order to define a specific goal. It enables them to find specific information on using products, completing tasks, operating equipment, and completing other types of activities.

Technical communication is valuable to everyone because it makes information more useable and accessible to those who need it.  For examples, software instructions help users be more successful on their own, improving how easily those products gain acceptance into the marketplace and reducing costs to support them. Medical instructions help patients and care-providers manage a patient’s treatment, improving the health of the patient while reducing costs and risks associated with incorrect care.

“Defining Technical Communication.” Defining Technical Communication. Society for Technical Communication. Web. 10 Nov. 2014.


Blog #10: Technical Communication Defined By Karina


The purpose of this blog post is to introduce a new definition of technical communication to my classmates so that you all know what I have learned and hopefully can relate to my observations. I will discuss my definition and explain how I created it as well as whom counts as a technical communicator based on my definition.

My Definition

I chose my definition of technical communication by reassessing the collaboration of our readings and other outside sources and how their authors defined it. Below, I have listed the definitions from multiple authors that were particularly interesting to me.

  1. “Technical communication is no longer simply communication about technology; it is also often communication as and in technology […] In other words, technical communication has become both a process and a product” –Solving Problems in Technical Communications by Johndan Johnson-Eilola and Stuart A. Selber.
  2. “Communicating about technical or specialized topics […] by using technology and providing instructions about how to do something” – Society for Technical Communication.
  3. “A means to document or convey scientific, engineering, or other technical information” –Wikipedia (Let’s be real, Wikipedia’s definitions are usually spot-on).

I notice that many sources define technical communication by its characteristics instead of one sentence. I also noticed that the main thing these definitions have in common is logical order. But with these definitions, I have settled on my own meaning of technical communication: a means of explaining procedures that produces another procedure and/or product successfully using multimodal tools. I created this definition also because of my own experiences through the course of our class. For example, the process for which I created the annual report template for Our House and explaining the procedure to recreate are forms of technical communication.

My Definition and Tech Comm

However, my definition does not only satisfy my firsthand experiences, but it also relates to the general field of technical communication in that it does not focus on a specific topic or kind of technology but also includes process, product, and technology simultaneously. For instance, throughout the weeks in class, we have been introduced to development/training module presentations that covered a good portion of technical communication: Griffith’s Procedural Narrative, aka “A How-To on How-To’s,” module presentation is one that directly relates to my definition that technical communications is a means of explaining procedures that produces another procedure and/or product successfully using multimodal tools.

My Definition and English

My definition also applies to my major and focus: English and rhetoric and composition. One of the reasons that I chose to take this class is the importance of being able to enhance my critical thinking and applying it to real situations (our service learning project). I think logically and less abstractly, so technical communications sounded like a course that could help me gain new skills and apply them to other courses as well.

Who Counts As a Technical Communicator?

By my definition, teachers, medical doctors, scientists, chefs, and pretty much anyone who deals with more logical work are considered technical communicators because each of them instruct others with or without technical knowledge. Even after this course, I would consider all of us technical communicators because we will apply the logical written skills and knowledge that we gained at some point in our job application processes.

Sources Cited

Johnson-Eilola, Johndan and Stuart A. Selber. Solving Problems in Technical Communication. The University of Chicago, 2013. Print.

Society for Technical Communication:


Technical Communication: What does it mean?

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.


Blog #10: What is Technical Communication?

At the beginning of the semester, some of our very first readings dealt with the problem of defining technical communication. Often, scholars offer a number of characteristics of workplace communication–it’s collaborative, multimodal, reader-centered, etc.–but one rarely finds someone willing to provide a neat, quotable definition. As we near the end of the semester, we are going to refocus on the question of what we mean when we identify “technical communication” as a sub-category of “communication.”

For example, in one of the very first articles we read, Susan Rauch defines technical writing as writing about technological or scientific content, a category that explicitly includes medical writing, such as that authored by the medieval abbess Hidegard von Bingen. In her work, Rauch draws upon Katherine Durack’s seminal article, “Gender, Technology, and the History of Technical Communication.” Durack’s own definition of technical communication, which continues to influence how professionals and scholars conceive of their field, consists of three identifying characteristics or markers: 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.” (258)

Durack settles upon these criteria after an extended consideration of how other generally accepted definitions of technical communication as related to technology and the workplace led to historical exclusion of female contributions to the field. Thus, she argues that defining “technical communication” also necessitates careful and inclusive definition of “technology” as a key term. Specifically, she maintains that “technology” must include “knowledge, actions, and tools” (258) necessary to accomplish a broad range of human activity, from using the latest computer technology to preventing diaper rash.

Now that you have nearly completed this course, you should be able to come up with your own working definition of technical communication. Using any of the resources you’ve encountered or read this semester, write a blog post that offers your definition of technical communication, explains why you settled upon that definition, and also justifies the utility or value of your definition within the field of technical communication more broadly or within your particular discipline/major.

Posting: Group 2

Commenting: Group 1

Category: What is technical communication?

In your Blog #10 post, take a position about how technical communication should be defined as you consider some or all of these questions: Who “counts” as a technical communicator? Why is it necessary or useful to identify “technical communication” as a sub-category of “communication”? Why should we be concerned about defining “technical communication” in ways that exclude women, or medieval writers, religious or ethnic minorities, or people of color? Please carefully read and follow the guidelines and posting information for this blog.

Sources Cited

Durack, Katherine T. (1997). Gender, Technology, and the History of Technical Communication. Technical Communication Quarterly, 6(3): 249-60.

Rauch, Susan. (2013). The accreditation of Hildegard von Bingen as medieval female technical writer. Journal of Technical Writing and Communication, 42(4): 393-411.

Featured Image Credit: Books for school by Mark Larson on Flickr.