So, why does technical writing make you feel so stupid?
Does this sound familiar?
- The how-to manual forgets to tell you how
- Legislation crushes you in cross-references
- Contracts bind you in legalese
All forms of technical writing?
My definition of technical writing may be different than yours.
Technical writing provides and explains details for specific subjects.
- It could be the software manual we all think of when we hear the term
- It could also mean a marketing ad that is trying to convince you why you need the next X-GREAT-!2
Even rocket science does not need to sound like rocket science.
Removing the Huh?
The following are simple tips for taking the Huh? out of technical writing.
If you are a regular reader of this blog, you know where the tips are headed.
#1 – Keep it simple.
Like any writing, the first question is – who is your reader?
- A professional from the same industry?
- End-users with varying skillsets?
While an article on a scientific study has a different style from a software manual, both benefit from a simple approach.
Keep technical writing logical.
- If instructional, provide steps and number the steps
- Break longer instructions into sections – e.g, Download, Activation, Settings
- Allow each section to stand on its own – not all readers need the same detail
If promotional, use Your Litmus Test for Successful Marketing, which responds through the eyes of your reader.
- Who are you?
- Why should I care?
- What problem(s) are you going to solve for me?
- What makes your product/service different from any other?
- Prove it.
Responding to those five elements keeps your writing simple and focused.
#2 – Keep it clear.
The funny thing about this style of writing ~
- When you want more detail (like an explanation of a function), it’s missing
- When you could use less, you are buried in details
Share relevant information.
- If a screenshot promotes a clear understanding, use one
- Review content for unnecessary data and eliminate it
Use formatting techniques that complement your message.
- Bold action items
- Design for easy scanning
- Consider moving tables and charts to an appendix
Stay focused on your message.
#3 – Keep it uniquely yours.
Do you have a favorite author whose style is instantly recognizable?
We all have qualities unique to us – our own style – use that to your advantage.
Technical is not synonymous with boring.
- Interject humor where it makes sense – and if you’re good at it
- Make the complex simple – educate and guide others to understanding
- Share your passion for the subject
Go Forth and Educate
The objective of most technical writing is education.
Understand your audience and then ~
- Keep it simple
- Keep it clear
- Keep it uniquely yours
What tips do you have for this form of education?
Helping you Keep it simple, clear & uniquely yours – contact me for help with your business writing needs.