Types of Technical Documents

Types of Technical Documents
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  • 0:01 Introduction
  • 1:09 Traditional Technical Document
  • 2:33 End-User Document
  • 3:53 Technical Marketing…
  • 5:20 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Suzanne Sweat

Suzanne has taught 12 years in the NC Public School System and three years at Campbell University. She has a master's degree in English Education.

There are many different types of technical documents. Which technical document you choose to create depends on your audience and your purpose. This video will explain the three main categories of technical documents and provide examples for each.


Have you ever submitted a resume for a job, written an email to your boss, created a PowerPoint presentation or written directions for a friend on how to use an item? Then you've already written a technical document. Technical writing includes a wide range of documents used to inform or persuade a target audience with a specific need.

Technical documents include memos, graphics, letters, fliers, reports, newsletters, presentations, web pages, brochures, proposals, instructions, reviews, press releases, catalogs, advertisements, handbooks, business plans, policies and procedures, specifications, instructions, style guides, agendas and so forth. There are so many types of technical documents. It may be easiest to understand the differences in them by grouping them into three main categories: traditional technical documents, end-user documents and technical marketing communications.

In order to help us better understand the different categories of technical writing - including the subject, purpose and audience of each - let's pretend that you are a toy developer who has just invented the latest and greatest water gun.

Traditional Technical Document

Your water gun is so amazing that you have recently landed a contract with Tarmart to sell your water guns in their stores. The new contract requires a large quantity of water guns to be produced, which means you no longer can make them yourself. You must use your expertise to create a technical diagram to send to the new manufacturer of your toy explaining exactly what you want the water gun to look like and how it should function.

This diagram is an example of a traditional technical document. Traditional technical documents are informative or instructional documents that are developed and written for an audience already familiar with a specific technical area. Since the toy manufacturer making your water guns are experts in their fields, the writer may include language and content that an audience of experts understands. Examples of other traditional technical documents include programmer guides, repair manuals, medical reports, research papers, reviews, schematics and memos. Writers of these types of documents should be technical experts in the field for which they are creating the document. Although the documents are written from one expert for another, the language of the document must still be clear and concise in order for the recipient to understand what the writer desires. After all, you'd hate for your water gun diagram to be confusing and end up with 5,000 water guns that leak.

End-User Document

Let's assume that you clearly explain to the manufacturer how to develop your water gun, and the company is able to produce 5,000 working toys. Before you can ship your new water guns to the store, you must create a set of directions to help the purchasers know how to use it.

The instruction manual is an example of an end-user document. End-user documents are technical documents designed to help the general public understand how to use an item. They are usually part of a consumer product and include operating manuals, assembly instructions, information booklets and trouble-shooting guides. Writers of end-user documents must consider what issues the consumer might face when assembling or using a product, and provide clear instructions and solutions to any potential problems.

Since the readers of these documents vary in abilities and educational backgrounds, end-user documents should be written using terms the general public understands. After all, if you buy a new gadget, but don't understand how to use it, the item is worthless to you. For this reason, the writer of end-user documents doesn't have to be an expert in a specific technical field; the writer must just be able to write instructions in an easy-to-understand manner in order for the consumer to use the product effectively.

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