What is Technical Communication?

Information for Entrants

What Does the Competition Consider Technical Communication?

STC generally does not place restrictions on the content of materials submitted to its technical communication competitions, provided the entry meets the criteria for the specific category. STC also trusts the judgment of local competition committees and judges in making decisions about whether a particular entry is acceptable. However, competition committees and judges might have questions about whether an entry qualifies as "technical" communication.

Technical communication (and this encompasses scientific and medical communication as well) has come to mean two quite different things.

1. A piece can be technical because it is about a technical product, service, or subject matter. This is what many of us are used to thinking about as technical communication. Examples: computer software and hardware manuals, illustrations of equipment, and online help for software applications.

2. A piece can be technical because it comes from a technical organization. The piece itself need not describe technical aspects of the organization. Examples: newsletters, annual reports, policies and procedures, and employee guides.

It would be impossible to answer the question of what is "technical" to everyone's satisfaction. STC recommends a liberal interpretation in which "technical" encompasses any entry having to do with a mechanical or scientific topic, or with practical, detailed methods, processes, or means of accomplishing objectives. Such entries will typically contain specialized information in a wide variety of subject areas for audiences that might range from the general public to subject-matter experts. Under this definition, the content might seem to be nontechnical (cooking is an often-cited example), and yet the communication about it would be technical if the intent is to inform or instruct.

Note the important distinction that "technical" applies to the content of an entry, not to the delivery mechanism. That is, the delivery method alone (for example, Web pages) or the tool used to produce an entry (for example, a sophisticated drawing application) is not enough to qualify an entry as technical. A book of fairy tales produced on the most elaborate publishing or online system is still a book of fairy tales.

Last modified: August 8, 2016