I’ve spent the last three years working with technical writers, and while it’s been exciting to see how they’ve evolved their craft, there is still so much more that can be done.
Specifically, I’d like to see more focus on how technical writing can help users understand their technology and make better decisions about how to use it effectively.
In this article series, I’ll share some of my observations on what we currently do well as a community of technical writers, but also where we can improve our craft for an even better outcome for both users and ourselves.
|1. Gain insights into the world of technical writing from the writer’s viewpoint.|
|2. Explore the challenges and rewards that technical writers encounter.|
|3. Understand the evolving role of technical writers in various industries.|
|4. Discover the importance of effective communication and clarity in technical writing.|
|5. Learn about the skills and strategies that contribute to successful technical writing careers.|
Put The User In Focus
When writing technical documents, it’s important to keep the user in mind. It’s easy to forget that these documents are not just for you (the writer) or even for your team members they’re also for your customers. You want them to be able to understand what you’ve written and use what you’ve created. When writing a document, ask yourself:
When envisioning the path ahead for technical writers, it’s crucial to consider the trends shaping the industry. Dive into the insights shared in A Technical Writer’s Guide to the Future to gain a foresight into the evolving landscape.
What Does This Document Need To Accomplish?
Who is going to read this document?
What is their background knowledge about the topic at hand and how can I use that as part of my writing strategy?
How can I make sure that readers will find answers quickly and easily so they don’t get frustrated or give up on my content altogether?
Be Clear And Concise
Let’s start with the basics.
Concise writing is writing that is not only clear but also brief and to the point. It’s a very useful skill for technical writers because we are often in the business of explaining complex ideas or procedures, which can be difficult to do if you’re rambling on and on.
Technically speaking, being concise means using as few words as possible to convey an idea or concept but it doesn’t mean being unnecessarily vague either!
Concise language should be straightforward yet still nuanced enough so that readers understand exactly what you mean every time they read your work. In other words: clear without feeling like stuffy textbook material (unless you’re writing actual textbooks).
When I say “clear,” I mean that everything should make sense logically; there should be no plot holes or unanswered questions left behind after reading through what you wrote (or watching/listening).
Clear messages are also unambiguous they don’t leave room for interpretation; everyone who reads them sees exactly what was intended by their author at first glance!
Understanding the essence of technical writing and why it holds importance is fundamental to mastering this craft. Delve into What Technical Writing Is and Why You Should Care to grasp its significance.
Use Less Jargon
Jargon is a problem for technical writers. It can be confusing, unhelpful, and even a barrier to understanding. It can also be a barrier to learning and communication in general.
Jargon is like a language that only you know and understand but it’s not your native tongue: you’ve learned it over time by absorbing complex concepts through osmosis alone.
But unlike your mother tongue, this new vocabulary is unfamiliar; the words might mean something else entirely outside of their context within the industry, or they may have different connotations depending on how they’re used (for example “smart” vs “intelligent”).
As such, when someone says something that doesn’t make sense to you because of this disconnect with what they’re trying to convey, then that person becomes less effective at communicating information about their work because their audience doesn’t understand them well enough for them to do so effectively!
Be Creative With Visuals
As a technical writer, you should use visuals to help tell your story. Visuals can make points more memorable and easier to understand. They can also help your users understand the context of what they are reading, as well as the structure and flow of the content.
In this article, we will explore how you can use visual elements in your writing to help users understand your content better by making important points stand out from the rest.
Write For Accessibility
Accessibility is a web content accessibility guideline (WCAG) standard, designed to provide guidelines for making websites more accessible to people with disabilities.
The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are technical standards published by the W3C that defines how web content should be written and coded so that it can be read by as many people as possible.
This article will focus on the importance of writing for accessibility. We’ll also look at some common issues with web content, and discuss ways you can improve your own documentation’s accessibility.
Unveiling the potential of technical writing examples can greatly enhance the effectiveness of your communication. Explore The Hidden Power of Technical Writing Examples to harness this compelling tool.
Consider The International Audience
When it comes to technical writing, there’s one thing that can’t be overlooked: the international audience.
The international audience is not just a target audience; it is a global community who share the same interests as you and use your product or service. The international audience is also your market of potential customers, so understanding them and their needs is key to making sure they’re satisfied with what you’re offering.
To get started on thinking like an international customer-oriented writer, consider these questions: Who are they? Where are they? Why do they need my product or service? What kind of language do they speak? How much do they know about technology?
Strive For Consistency And Accuracy
Consistency is important in many ways. It helps users to navigate your content, it contributes to the perception of your brand, and it’s critical for usability.
Consistency Improves User Experience
Consistent formatting makes it easier for users to find information and understand where they are in an article or document (think: H1 headers).
When you start a series of headings with uppercase letters for example, “What is Technical Writing?” followed by “Technical Writing vs Content Strategy” you’re communicating that these topics are related; they are grouped as part of a larger category called “Technical Writing.”
In other words, this provides consistency in your writing style by grouping similar concepts together.
Use The Right Tone Of Voice
You must choose a tone of voice that fits the audience and content of your document. A technical writer can use different tones of voice to achieve different effects, but it’s important to know what tone you’re writing in early on so you can keep your audience in mind.
A good rule of thumb is to use clear, direct language that avoids passive voice (e.g., “The report was written by Jane”) as much as possible. When you use active voice instead (“Jane wrote the report”), it will help your reader understand who did what and when and make it easier for them to follow along with what’s happening in your document.
Another way we can improve our writing style is by avoiding jargon, which is language specific to a certain group or industry.
For example, if I’m writing about how an algorithm works on an app, I’d want my audience the people who write code to understand exactly what happens during each step without worrying about having them go through a bunch of extra work just so they can get up-to-speed on all this terminology! Instead.
I’ll break down everything into its simplest parts: first by explaining how algorithms work generally (no jargon!), then specifically illustrating how our specific algorithm works within the context of our app (with some technical terms).
Gaining wisdom from those who’ve walked the path can accelerate your growth as a writer. Discover the top lessons in Top 10 Things I Learned About Technical Writing to refine your craft and elevate your skills.
Integrate Knowledge Into Workflows
It’s important to understand that knowledge isn’t just a source of information. Knowledge can also be used to improve workflows. For example, you can use your knowledge of writing and editing processes to improve the way you work by integrating it into your workflow. In this case, knowledge is acting as a foundation on which your improvement efforts are built.
When you’re looking at improving your processes, consider thinking about how they’re related to each other and then working backward from there: if one process improves, what effect will it have on the other? How can we test out our hypothesis? If we don’t know all of the answers yet (and we won’t), what do we need for further research?
Use Proven Information Architecture Methods
Use proved Information Architecture methods.
Information Architecture (IA) is the study of how to organize information in a way that makes it easy for users to find and use.
Define The Problem Before Starting On A Solution
Before you start writing, define the problem or goal you are trying to solve for your user(s). You don’t need to know exactly what your content is going to be yet you just need an overview of what kind of information they need and why they need it.
Then, once you have that information organized mentally (or even on paper), ask yourself: “What would make this page better?”
And then keep asking that question over and over again until we have something we’re happy with! If something is missing from our understanding of our users’ needs, now’s the time when we can go back and fix things before creating content that no one wants!
Remember: Don’t worry about what other people’s goals are; if they aren’t similar enough then they probably aren’t relevant anyway!
Be ambitious but stay realistic if someone promises something like “lose 50 pounds” within three months while working full-time as a technical writer then there’s almost no chance at all that could happen unless all the stars align perfectly.
And even then it might not work out quite right because maybe there isn’t enough sleep. Or maybe some unexpected vacations come up where eating healthy food seems impossible?
Writing is a skill. It’s a craft that requires practice and patience. Not every writer is born with the ability to do it well, but anyone can develop their skills with enough time and dedication. While it might seem like technical writing is different than other types, there are many similarities between the two whether you’re writing fiction or nonfiction!
Explore these resources to deepen your understanding of technical writing and related subjects:
Five Approaches to Big-Picture Thinking in Tech Comm Short Description: Delve into different strategies that empower technical communicators to think beyond the details and grasp the broader context.
Technical Writer-Subject Matter Expert Interaction: The Writer’s Perspective, the Organizational Challenge Short Description: Gain insights into the dynamic relationship between technical writers and subject matter experts, uncovering challenges and potential solutions.
Technical Writing Standards Short Description: Explore a comprehensive guide to technical writing standards, enhancing your ability to create clear, consistent, and effective documentation.
How can big-picture thinking benefit technical communicators?
Big-picture thinking helps technical communicators contextualize their work, fostering a holistic understanding of projects and enhancing communication with diverse stakeholders.
What insights does the technical writer-subject matter expert interaction study provide?
The study sheds light on the perspectives of technical writers and subject matter experts, offering valuable insights into their collaborative process and the challenges they face.
What are some key elements of technical writing standards?
Technical writing standards encompass clarity, organization, formatting, and consistency, ensuring that documentation is easily understandable and accessible to various audiences.
How can I improve my ability to think beyond technical details?
Engaging in cross-functional collaboration, seeking diverse perspectives, and regularly stepping back to assess the bigger picture can sharpen your big-picture thinking skills.
Why is the interaction between technical writers and subject matter experts important?
Effective collaboration between technical writers and subject matter experts is essential for producing accurate and comprehensible documentation, aligning expertise with communication.
Costantine Edward is a digital marketing expert, freelance writer, and entrepreneur who helps people attain financial freedom. I’ve been working in marketing since I was 18 years old and have managed to build a successful career doing what I love.