Technical Writing for the Terrified

Sometimes, it can be passed a corporation’s or individual’s budget to hire a professional creator to cope with their technical documentation. Although all technical documentation must be produced with the aid of a relatively skilled professional in a really perfect international, sadly, we do not live in an ideal. In the same manner that many people will try to repair their personal home equipment, many humans will write the best technical files. Just as fiddling with a toaster can result in electrocution, attempting to write technical files from scratch without previous recommendations will fail in the long run. As a rough rule of thumb, you must constantly be looking to employ an expert, but if for something cause you can not, and you’re the poor unfortunate that has had documentation responsibilities foisted on them, do not despair. This quick guide outlines some of the middle talents you will want to carry in your writing, technical conventions to be privy to, software program packages you may take into account, and exact matters to keep away from. Hopefully, even if you have never written a sentence to your life about whatever vaguely technical, you’ll have no less than a broader photo of what technical writing involves.


What is Technical Writing?

Technical writing unsurprisingly sufficient refers to writing this is technical. Although this will appear to be an improper definition, it’s an important one to consider. Too many technical authors make the error of making documentation that is both too technical or too ‘literary.’ A correct technical creator has to be capable of modifying the stability among the 2 to shape the end person of the documentation. Technical writing is lots like fresh air, pervasive and but quite much invisible. In the bizarre, stressed out global wherein we find ourselves, technical writing is anywhere. Software manuals, consumer publications for home equipment, educational leaflets, emails, letters, reviews, technical information reviews, statistics, and biographies on tv sports activities suggest all are examples of technical writing to which people are exposed on a daily foundation. If you have got ever tried to program the time settings on a home video recorder and flung the guide across the room in disgust, you threw a piece of technical writing (even though glaringly not an excellent one!).

Too generally, technical literature is produced by writers with not a huge sufficient grasp of generation or technologists who lack the capacity to jot down. As a prospective technical creator, you need to tread the very delicate line of being technically knowledgeable on your professional subject(s) as well as being an ‘excellent’ creator (in preference to ‘awful’ writers who can generally be observed mugging sweet vintage girls or something). Technical documentation is typically produced for two distinct user companies, specifically professional degree customers and naive customers. As a technical author, certainly one of your first responsibilities is to sort out what target audience you’re writing for, which brings me deftly to:

Know thy foe

As the vintage cliché is going, absolutely everyone’s a critic. This is particularly genuine of maximum sane humans’ reaction while confronted with technical writing. As highlighted in the video recorder example above, technical writing can be impenetrable to the give-up person. If this is the case, whoever wrote the documentation did not have trouble identifying their target market and writing to their level. It appears an obvious factor to make, but one that is frequently not noted, that the user of the documents your is creating won’t, in reality, be a professional. Obviously, if you are growing a report on a specific specialist product for a particular superior person-organization (a good example can be auditing software for pc device directors), then you’ll want to compose this in an entirely distinct way than in case you are developing as an instance, a technical manual for mass-market pc software aimed at the green domestic consumer. One of the first responsibilities you should accomplish before you even placed pen to paper, of the finger to keyboard, is to become aware of who the consumer of your files may be and construct files geared toward that particular goal group(s). If you get this stage accurate, it has to keep away from your files being thrown across rooms in annoyance!

Planning for perfection


Once you have diagnosed the target marketplace for the files you will be developing, you’ll want to plan how the documents might be organized. This technique is basically depending on what documentation is being produced, but you could observe a few hard guidelines of thumb. Firstly, if the documents support a specially designated product (consisting of laptop software), get your grubby fingers on it as fast as possible. By analyzing the product in the element, you may formulate a plan of attack and start to compose an organizational shape. Whilst you’re exploring the product in the element, take copious notes, as doing this all through the preliminary exploratory ranges can prevent time that may be critical if you are operating to the cut-off date. Even in the strategic planning stage, you should make sure there’s consistency in the layout and organizational shape for the report. Select numbering conventions, paragraph patterns, and generate rough thoughts for format functions now, and store vital time later.

Let a Draft in

Before diving headfirst into growing the documentation, draft out every section first. This will permit to reorder if the documents being created do not have a logical ‘go with the flow’ without significantly affecting the undertaking. Many technical files (particularly for more precise products) are made from several (and in a few instances almost infinite) iterations. This is because the product shifts and adjustments over time, and one of the primary duties of a technical writer is to keep abreast of these modifications and ensure that they’re all well documented. Good technical authors will constantly push their files via as many drafts as humanly possible, refining on every draft, until they reach a role wherein they (and their business enterprise) are happy that the documentation is timely, correct. A true mirrored image of the product or process it documents.

The satan is inside the detail.

As already identified, technical writing is known as that because it’s far technical in nature. Part of being technical is to be unique, and a part of precision is to be as specified as humanly viable. Even if the files you are growing are for a sophisticated and technologically state-of-the-art person group, your documentation has to attend to the information of a technique or the use of a product. This can be a tough feat to perform, however, not if you write for your audience. Never expect that the reader is aware of something about the product or manner be documented, however inside the case of advanced/expert users as a minimum have the commonplace sense to understand the fact that they possibly do not need to be informed a way to use the device they operate on each day basis. When describing a way to perform a specific interest or assignment, pick out each level involved (variety them if this suits the conventions of the report type you are creating), and to make certain the accuracy of what you’ve got written, take a look at it yourself, or maybe higher, rope in a volunteer of the equal competencies degree as the stop person.

Choose the right device for the activity.

Although it’s far feasible to create technical files using parchment and blood, it’s no longer beneficial. Many expert software program packages exist to help you create powerful documentation, and part of your responsibilities as a technical writer include selecting the proper tool for the task. Largely this relies upon the character of the files being produced and the nature of their eventual distribution. If the documents can be introduced using the Internet, this is genuinely an avenue to consider. To that end, make use of applications together with Flash MX and Dreamweaver to acquire this purpose. For an integrated online assist, you can want to create uncooked HTML files, or as an alternative, pick a consultant package together with RoboHelp or similar. In the case of print primarily based documents, you’ll want to choose a software program package effective enough to handle what you’ll throw at it.


Many inexperienced technical authors immediately flip in the direction of Microsoft Word (as it’s miles ubiquitous in can also industrial and personal environments). Unless your documentation goes to be under a hundred and fifty pages, and you already know how to create templates and make macros, keep away from MS Word. As any technical author will inform you, it has nasty habits all its very own and can often be a volatile package to paintings with. If you are growing pics heavy documentation, you could wish to don’t forget Quark Xpress, or pick out probably the enterprise leader within the area, Adobe Framemaker. Whatever software program you select, you must make certain you emerge as fantastically gifted with it, either via investing in schooling or through the use of it day by day after day!


Alcohol scholar. Bacon fan. Internetaholic. Beer geek. Thinker. Coffee advocate. Reader. Have a strong interest in consulting about teddy bears in Nigeria. Spent 2001-2004 promoting glue in Pensacola, FL. My current pet project is testing the market for salsa in Las Vegas, NV. In 2008 I was getting to know birdhouses worldwide. Spent 2002-2008 buying and selling easy-bake-ovens in Bethesda, MD. Spent 2002-2009 marketing country music in the financial sector.