Technical writing is writing or drafting technical communication used in technical and occupational fields, such as computer hardware and software, engineering, chemistry, aeronautics, robotics, finance, medical, consumer electronics, biotechnology, and forestry.
The purpose of technical writing is to inform the reader of something; the style should further that purpose, not detract from it by trying to entertain, cajole, or confuse the reader.
The 3 Most Common Types of Technical Writing:
- Traditional: Repair manuals, medical studies.
- End-user documentation: Electronics, consumer products.
- Technical marketing content: Press releases, catalogs.
There are seven principles to guide technical writing: remember your purpose (to inform or persuade), remember your audience (their concerns, background, attitude toward your purpose), make your content specific to its purpose and audience and write clearly and precisely (active voice, appropriate language to audience).
How is a memo different from a letter in technical writing?
It has come to our attention that some people think of a memo as just a short letter. Not so! Specifics to follow.
That’s a memo. Maybe shorter than most, but it’s a memo and not a letter.
Letters and memos (or, memorandums) are similar in many ways, but they serve two different purposes. It’s important to know the distinctions in order to produce the type of document you’re asked to write.
First we’ll look at some shared characteristics. Both letters and memos:
- use similar format styles
- are sent as hardcopy by either an external or internal delivery system
- an be typed or printed from a computer file
- address one specific subject
- provide information to or try to bring about a desired reaction from the recipients
There are two very important characteristics that distinguish a memo from a letter. The first is that letters are specific and memos are general. That means that letters normally go to specific recipients. They’re written mano e mano. Memos are not usually considered to be private communication. They’re normally addressed to multiple recipients. There may be dozens, hundreds, or thousands of people who get the same memo. That means that the odds are much greater that a memo will be read by someone it isn’t addressed to than for a letter. Memos get put up on bulletin boards and left on tables. There’s nothing private about a memo.
The second is that letters can be as long as the writer wants them to be while memos are written in a very condensed manner with a lot of information in very little space. Nothing unnecessary is included. There’s no Dear Sir orYours truly in a memo. Just the facts.
A memo can have a number of purposes. It can:
- distribute news and information to multiple recipients
- convey thoughts or opinions for immediate reaction
- call people to action or to a meeting
The single, most important difference between a letter and a memo is that a memo is short and to the point.
Note: Technically, the plural of memorandum is memoranda, but you probably shouldn’t use it unless you’re writing in a very high-level, academic situation.