Three key elements to keep in mind during the technical writing process
There are many different forms of technical writing. From product manuals and user interface design to process documentation and how-to’s, technical writing is essential for communicating to a specific, specialized audience. Doug Chartier, Communications Specialist and technical writer at Circuit Media, has some insight when it comes to common technical writing mistakes.
Below are a few key elements that he suggests keeping in mind during the technical writing process:
Organize your visuals
One thing many people may not consider is that a lot of the technical writing process doesn’t actually include writing. It includes creating your outline, interviewing professionals, and organizing!
If you’re working on a team to write and lay out a document, chances are you are going to need the assistance of a graphics department to create images. A common mistake people make is not taking the time to figure out what sort of charts, tables, or even infographics you may need in order to better convey a message. To avoid this issue, Doug suggests determining what types of visuals would help the reader understand the subject during the first part of the organization process. This gives your team a better understanding of what is expected from them and ensures all deadlines are met.
Use a Plain Language Mentality
In many forms of writing, there can be a fine line between using plain language and talking down to your audience. According to plainlanguage.gov, plain language is communication your audience can understand the first time they read or hear it. But this doesn’t necessarily mean writing at a middle school level, which is sometimes a misconception.
When writing outside of your expertise, it can be easy to use the terminology of your subject matter expert during the interview phase. It is important to remain critical when using jargon or language that might be confusing to the reader. To avoid this, Doug suggests asking yourself several questions in your writing phase: Am I being straightforward? Does the message seem glossed over? Is the way I rephrased the information accurate?
Don’t be afraid to ask “stupid” questions
You’ve probably heard from a young age that there is no such thing as a stupid question. You probably even rolled your eyes. But in technical writing, there’s really not! When interviewing subject matter experts, ask the questions that you’re hesitant about. Don’t hold back because of an insecurity of sounding uneducated.
You might not be an expert on the topic of the report or manual you’re writing for a client. According to Doug, this can actually work to your advantage because you are bringing in an outsider’s perspective. Be upfront and transparent with the interviewee about what you understand and what you don’t. By using this mindset, your writing will be clear and concise, guaranteeing that an “insider” will be able to understand it.
Circuit Media has technical writing experts with experience in many types of technical writing. From RFP’s to instruction manuals to process documents, we have key personnel ready to help you with your next project. Contact us to schedule a meeting or discuss your needs.