The Art of Technical Writing
2 Sep 2021
4 min read
Technical writing is a method of conveying technical knowledge to audiences by simplifying the topic. Technical writing isn't about how much a writer understands about a subject; it's about how engaging they can make it for their audience. It takes skill to convey information to the reader in a clear and succinct manner. Let's look at what you can do to master technical writing now that you've learned what it is.
The Don’ts of Technical Writing
- Be in haste: Although, as earlier stated, you should endeavor to be consistent with your publishing. However, in a bid to meet the deadline you’ve set for yourself, you should not rush. Go over your work, take time to gather information, and do not publish unedited pieces. Switch roles: put yourself in the shoes of your readers and read your draft. If you were without any knowledge of that topic, does reading it help you in any way? If possible, you can even get a friend to read through it and critic it constructively.
- Put pressure on yourself: You may find yourself comparing yourself and your writing to others; it is crucial to take it easy on yourself. As long as you make intentional efforts to get better, you will. Do not put unhealthy pressure on yourself.
- Do not plagiarize: is illegal as well as unethical. Stealing someone else's ideas and presenting them as your own is unethical, unprofessional, and unpleasant. I recommend using a plagiarism detector such as Duplichecker or Quetext.
- Don't Assume: Assumption is the worst form of knowledge. Make sure you know everything there is to know about the topic you're writing about. If the procedure is documented (e.g, in an instruction manual or a how-to-XYZ article), it is critical to try it out or at the very least observe it. You may also seek advice from experts in that field if you have access to them. If you're going to state facts or figures, be sure they're from a trustworthy source and that they've been verified. Do not invent ‘facts.'
When should I write?
The response to this may vary depending on the field, and the list may be endless; nevertheless, I will provide a few that I feel cut across many occupations as a starting point, and they include:
- When I have a strong opinion on a topic.
- When I need to reinforce something.
- When I wish to learn a new skill.
- When I've gained fresh knowledge.
- When I want to learn more about anything in particular.
- When I need to inquire about something.
Tips for better technical writing
1. Know your audience
This is true for all types of writing; know who you're writing for. You can stress the unique characteristics of your product/solution that address specific complicated issues if you're writing for executives who are typically decision-makers with basic expertise, for example. However, if it's an instruction manual, you'll need to provide a list of instruction steps and fundamental language for the product's end-user. You may develop a character to help you understand your reader by guiding you through the fundamentals.
Pose the following questions to yourself:
- Who are your target audiences?
- What are their requirements?
- How will people access your content?
- Why should people care about what you have to say?
2. Simplify your language
“Simplification is the highest sophistication”, said Leonardo Da Vinci. When it comes to writing, this is especially true. It's advisable to avoid using industry jargon if your audience is unlikely to comprehend it. If a technical word is required, define it as plainly as possible. Some technical terminology or abbreviations, such as CSS (Cascading Styles Sheet), can't always be deciphered from context; make sure to define them ahead of time so your readers don't become confused.
3. Never stop learning
Michelangelo once stated, "Ancora imparo" which translates to "I'm constantly learning". Writers should follow the same philosophy and concentrate on building a strong foundation.
To gain a better understanding of the ‘what, why, and how' of the issue, improve your domain-specific expertise, do in-depth research, consult subject matter experts, or consult the back-end teams. You'll require various technical insights from other team members like solutions architects or technicians for every piece of content you create, such as how-to videos, product release papers, knowledge base articles, and training guides. Don't be hesitant to contact the IT experts.
4. Make a game plan
Every game necessitates a strategy. Similarly, before you begin writing technical content, you must first construct an outline. Your text should be easy to browse for readers, flow logically, and be simple. An outline assists you in accomplishing this and provides a framework for your writing.
5. Create a structure
A technical copy has a lot of technical information, which might make it difficult to understand. Structure your text in such a manner that it is readily scannable for individuals who want to skim it by using tables or charts. Maintain uniformity, divide your material into headings and subheaders, and provide enough white space for readers not to feel overwhelmed. Maintain a consistent format, font, and spacing throughout your document.
6. Use examples
You'll often be discussing complicated subjects in technical writing. As a result, it's crucial to include a few examples to demonstrate how it pertains to the actual world. To make your ideas more accessible, consider introducing a couple of hypothetical scenarios or utilizing a metaphor or a tale.
7. Seek and accept advice
It's critical to discover areas for development. Ask your coworkers or clients for feedback by asking them the following questions:
- Did your writing assist them in any way?
- Did they grasp the idea you were attempting to communicate?
- Did your material come across as clear and concise?
- Did your material assist them in finding answers to their questions?
- Did they find anything in your writing that they didn't like?
With this knowledge, you can determine what does not offer value to your content and whether there is a recurrent pattern that you usually ignore. Embracing feedback as an opportunity to work on and enhance your abilities can only benefit you.
Writing is a process that is iterative, but it's important to have pleasure writing. You will develop and enhance your technical writing abilities via proper preparation and practice. It's not a one-day contest, it's a long-distance match. It might be difficult to play, but the best thing to do is to raise up your game every single time.
Blessing Krofegha is a Software Engineer Based in Lagos Nigeria, with a burning desire to contribute to making the web awesome for all, by writing and building solutions.See other articles by Blessing