What is Technical Writing, Tips, and Prompts for Students— Technical writing might not seem like an obvious skill that high school students need to have, but more and more teachers are setting aside some time to teach teens this valuable skill.
Teaching kids about technical writing has three distinct benefits:
- They’ll become more adept at parsing technical writing when they encounter it, ultimately aiding in their reading comprehension.
- Technical writing does not prioritize creativity and instead focuses almost exclusively on clarity and transferring information. This helps students to improve their overall communication skills.
- A familiarity with technical writing is extremely helpful in the job market, both in landing technical writing jobs and in general having strong writing abilities.
So, what exactly should high school students know about technical writing? To help you begin, we’ve put together a quick guide to this important subject—as well as a selection of technical writing prompts to aid your lessons.
What Is Technical Writing?
Technical writing refers to a very specific style of writing that is highly informative and/or instructional in nature. Its goal is always to convey information as clearly as possible to an audience for a specific purpose.
A few forms of technical writing include:
- Instruction manuals
- Help guides and tutorials
- Legal disclaimers and notices
- Policy manuals and rulebooks
As you can see, technical writing is generally used in situations where clarity and specificity are highly important. With that in mind, it’s essential to write carefully, concisely, and with close attention to detail.
Three Technical Writing Tips
There’s a lot of nuance involved in technical writing, but for high-schoolers, we recommend starting out with a few tips to help them get a feel for the style. Teach your students these three general principles and then give them the technical writing prompts below to begin practicing!
1. Know Your Audience
The key to successful technical writing is to write directly to the intended audience. That means that before you begin, you need to think about exactly who is likely to be reading the document you’re writing.
For instance, if you were writing an instruction manual for a product, you should first consider who is most likely to use the product. If the person is elderly or unfamiliar with this type of product, they may need different information (and different levels of explanation) than a target audience who is more tech-savvy.
Be sure you know specifically whom you’re writing for before you begin, as this will dictate aspects of your writing like vocabulary, level of detail, and additional resources.
2. Stay Focused on the Topic
Because technical writing is highly specific and detailed, it’s very easy for it to quickly grow beyond the project’s original scope. It’s up to you, as the writer, to make sure things stay focused on the task at hand.
Generally speaking, you should spend a significant amount of time simply planning your project before you even begin writing. During the planning stages, draft an outline for your document and consider any supplemental information that may need to be included.
Keep a clear goal in mind at all times and evaluate any extra details carefully to determine whether or not they are really necessary.
3. Keep Your Writing “Evergreen”
It’s typically also important to make sure that technical writing is as timeless as possible. Many technical documents are not updated very frequently—and those that are updated tend to only have small edits made (rather than the entire thing being rewritten).
With that in mind, you should strive to keep the content “evergreen.” Avoid mentioning information that will only be temporarily relevant and include dates or timelines where necessary for clarity.
If you are referencing current laws, trends, or events, be sure to explain the context fully so that even readers in the future will be likely to understand. When appropriate, you may also include an appendix of references or resources to further explain such information.
16 Technical Writing Prompts for High School Students
Once your students have a better understanding of what technical writing entails, they should try it out and see how well they can clearly and concisely convey information on their own!
Use these 16 technical writing prompts for high school students to give your class practice in this important field.
- Write a step-by-step instruction manual explaining how to send a photo to someone else through your favorite social media platform.
- Take the instruction manual you created in the previous prompt and re-write it in the form of a short, appealing graphic. Add icons or images to illustrate your writing.
- Write a faux contract that defines the terms of your education. Include details about what your responsibilities as a student are, what conduct is required of you, and what you expect to receive from the school in return.
- Imagine that you are opening a small business. Write a code of conduct for your employees based on the behavior and work you would expect from them.
- Write a detailed, step-by-step recipe for one of your favorite foods.
- Write a guide to getting ready in the morning. Include specific instructions about how to complete various steps of your morning routine.
- Write a report detailing your progress in school this year. Include details about your accomplishments, your attendance, and your opportunities for improvement.
- Create a brief instruction sheet for an assignment you recently completed. Be as detailed as possible based on the experiences you had while doing the assignment.
- Imagine that you are an employee at a popular company and you would like to improve a feature about one of the company’s key products. Then, write a proposal detailing the changes you want to make. Include details about the product’s current performance and how it could improve through your proposed changes, as well as a brief outline of the steps needed to implement your plan.
- Imagine that you are starting a business and draft a brief business plan that outlines your vision, projected start-up costs, and projected income.
- Write an instruction manual geared toward kids for a popular household object. Be sure to include any necessary safety information!
- Write a troubleshooting guide for an item in your home that sometimes malfunctions. Explain which things the user should check first to attempt to remedy the situation.
- Write a good-natured report based on your parents’ performance this year. Analyze their successes with you and outline areas where there is room for growth.
- Create a brief policy draft for a law you would like to see go into place. Include details about what the law would tangibly look like for citizens, where the funding for the law would come from, and what changes would need to take place to put it into effect.
- Choose something you’re good at—and then write a short tutorial that explains how to do that thing to someone who has never tried it before.
- From memory, create an instruction manual or rulebook for a game you’ve played before. Describe the process of the game and the steps included in it, as well as the goal that players are trying to reach. Be sure to also include as many rules and special scenarios as you can think of and explain how to handle each one.
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