Technical writing is the practice of processing documents and visuals, verbal information, and demonstrations to instructional training material. The purpose of technical writing is to provide material that explains a process or make a complex concept easier to understand for a particular audience. Through efficient and effective technical writing, the writer will be able to explain and assist the reader how to understand information and accomplish specific tasks. There are five universal ethical principles of technical writing. The principles are quality content, audience and purpose, accessibility, grammar, and writing style.
Quality Content is subjective. MATC’s definition of high quality content is a product that meets a client’s standards or goes above and beyond the initial scope of the project. To produce a high quality project, you need to write with the intended audience in mind. The writer must research additional knowledge needed before the document or material is completed. The writer needs to know what format or platform will be used to represent the information. The writer has to determine specific information that range from knowing what the deadlines are to knowing why the information needs to be written.
Audience and Purpose
The writer needs to understand both purpose and audience in order to create an outstanding technical piece. The technical writing audience varies on the industry and the particular client. For example, the audience of a lap report would be the product manufacture who hired us as writers. The audience for an eLearning training module may be a bank or mortgage provider who needs compliance training. The writer has to know how much the readers will know and what the responsibilities the writer is required to fulfill when it comes to communicating to the readers.
It is essential for the audience to be able to access the information the writer created with ease. Accessibility includes anything that is on a document, such as headers and footers, or on computer iLearn modules, which improve accessibility formatting to be more universal and clearer. The technical writer needs to figure out the best method to help readers navigate the documentation with notations from a bibliography to a page numbers to a table of contents. The writer could even add visuals, such as charts and figures, to explain information further.
Writing clear, concise, and straightforward with a proper use of grammar is vital in writing any technical piece. The writer must also proofread and edit any technical piece being written to correct any errors or inconsistencies with the grammar, style, and layout. A technical writer should always write in the present tense unless the client indicates their preference else-wise. The reader of the technical piece should be doing exactly what you are giving instructions for. The writer should always write in simple sentences that include gender neutral nouns. Simple sentences help the readers clearly and efficiently understand the tasks they have to undertake to complete their goals.
The writing style differs for every technical piece because it heavily depends on who the audience is and the scenario that the technical piece is being written for. The tone of a technical writing piece is essential because it helps the reader understand what kind of tone is required to complete the task. Word choice is also an essential part of the style in helping provide the needs for the audience because it connects back to who your audience is. When referencing sections of information or websites, it’s essential to provide clear and visible ways to access the information using tools, such as figures and tables.
Other Technical Writing Tips
Do Extra Research and Learn More
Knowing the bare minimum might not get the best technical piece to help the audience understand the information. There could be a lot of terminology that both the writer and reader might not understand. As a rule of thumb, if you as a reader do not understand a concept or term, define it. Too much information can always be cut down in later reviews. This information should be researched in order to understand how it works with what the writer is writing as a whole. Research a little father and find out what other information could be used to enhance the technical piece being written.
Become the Audience and Underestimate the Audience
Put yourself in the audience’s shoes. Can you clearly understand and follow the instructions or information that you have written for the audience? If yes, you can provide more information if you think it needs a little more help. If not, you need to find the parts that aren’t clear and find a way to provide the information properly. A big problem that technical writers often have is that they overestimate the knowledge of their audience. The audience could be multiple people at different levels of knowledge. It’s perfectly acceptable to briefly provide information that could be assumed or already stated as a refresher for the audience.
Ask for a Second and Third Opinion and Peer Review
Technical writers are resourceful. The greatest resource you have is your subject matter experts. Make sure to ask your SME if they see any knowledge gaps or errors. Writers check with their clients to see if there is any knowledge gaps or errors that the writer might overlook. Having a supervisor or colleague look over and give an opinion could also help enhance a technical piece. Peer review is when a group of people meet to read, comment on, and recommend improvements on each other’s work. More blind spots become uncovered when more people review a document, which ensures accurate and concise information.
Technical writers learn new information for every project they work on. The writers get a better understanding of what clients need because they start below the knowledge level of their readers before all the research and discussions with the subject matter experts. This becomes a great asset to companies because less assumptions open up for more effective training. The combination of the writers learning the material and these ethical principles of technical writing standards lead to more confident and efficient employees.