handwriting Everyone does professional and technical writing

It’s not just technical writers, everyone does some kind of professional and technical writing.

Technical writers aren’t the only people who do “technical writing” or “professional writing.” You may not recognize it right away, but everyone in an organization (large or small) does some kind of professional or technical writing. Everyone needs to write! Here are a few ways that different roles do their own professional or technical writing:


A proposal is a request to do work, and it’s the start of any project - either internal or external, requested or not. How you approach the proposal depends on what it is: Did someone else ask that you write this proposal to do work, or is this something you are asking for? Is the client someone inside the organization, or outside it?

RequestedIn general: “Supervisor asks you to propose __”Customer asks you to do a project for them
Not RequestedYou want to introduce a new idea to your organizationRequest to do work for a potential client

However, the general content of the proposal will be the same, no matter what kind of proposal you are writing. You need to be clear about what you will do (the work), what they will get (deliverable), how long it will take (timeline), and how much it will cost (if any). For an external-requested proposal, this is also called a Statement of Work and defines what you will do for the client, when you will do it, and how much you’ll get paid. For an internal proposal, either requested or not, the proposal might be a general outline of the work you want to do, and funding you would need (and over what timeline) to get it done.

Status reports

In a professional organization, everyone works on projects. It’s the nature of business. And when you work on a project, you will eventually need to provide a status report.

Some status reports can be in-person and verbal, but most will need to be written. The specific outline of a project status report might differ depending on the project, but overall you need to indicate what’s happened in the previous timeframe (such as the last two weeks) and what work is coming up in the next timeframe. Most projects that I work with also use a “color coding” system for the major tasks and deliverables: green if everything is going well, yellow if the task has encountered a few bumps along the way, and red if things have completely stopped.

The big issue that most new people have with writing status reports is trying to report everything as “green,” thinking that anything else is a sign of weakness. But if you have a good project owner (stakeholder) they will want your honest appraisal of how things are going. If you’ve had a few snags, report it as “yellow” so they can ask how they can help. If things are at a standstill (“red”) it won’t go well if there wasn’t a “yellow” at some point to warn the stakeholders that something was going on.

Research reports

You may be asked to do some research for a project or a stakeholder. This can take different forms depending on what it is. For example, a supervisor might ask you to look at different options for a systems upgrade and make a recommendation. In this case, the research report is really looking at what’s out there, evaluate costs, and provide a few bullets for each option to describe what the relative strengths or weaknesses are for each one.

Or maybe your team is facing a problem and you want to figure out a way through it. In that case, a research report might involve talking to other people who use the same or similar system, asking what their experience has been like, talking to vendors, and finally making a list of recommendations. These might also be a “pro/con” list, showing a table that describes what features might be delivered by different vendors, and what vendors cannot meet certain needs.

You can follow a traditional “IMRAD” format for this, which works for most kinds of research reports:

Introduction : What the report is about (a kind of executive summary)

Methods : How you conducted the research (what you looked at, etc)

Results : What you learned from the research (raw data)

Analysis : A breakdown of what you learned (how it applies to you)

Discussion : Recommendations for how to move forward (bullet points or “pro/con” list)

Strategic plans

Managers, Directors, and other Executives aren’t immune from professional writing. They need to know how to write, too! Most of what the executive team writes are strategic plans, positioning statements, and things like that.

A strategic plan looks at where the organization is now, and tries to imagine what the future looks like and how the organization needs to change to meet that future. And based on that vision, the strategic plan needs to identify specific things that need to happen (and on what schedule) to get things done.

Sometimes, strategic plans can be kind of fuzzy, like “we aren’t sure exactly what the future will look like, but we know it will involve __ and __, so we need to get ready for that.” And at other times, the strategic plan might be more of a “direction” document or plan, based on some short term goals.

Everyone does professional writing

It doesn’t matter what kind of job you have, everyone in an organization will need to do some kind of technical or professional writing. The list goes on and on, including things at the small end of the scale like an Instructions document for how to do something - even something “everyday” like how to load paper into the copier or how to clear a paper jam in the printer. Professional writing is something everyone needs to do.