How to Succeed at Technical Writing
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How to Succeed at Technical Writing

Learn about the basics of technical writing.

Technical writing can actually be easier than writing a story or an essay. If done properly, technical writing can be used as one of the clearest forms of communication in the workplace, and is really just one step down from a face-to-face conversation. Everyone has seen technical writing at some point, even if it’s in the form of instructions for a new stereo or a quick memo in the workplace. The problem with this type of writing, however, is that people do not write clearly and functionally, thus confusing the message that is meant to be conveyed. * Note that this article is not an example of technical writing, but merely gives some points of advice.

Here are some quick points to assist in clear and concise technical writing formats:

1. State a Purpose – The very first line in a memo, or the first paragraph in a letter/instruction set should give the reader a very quick view of what the writing is about. What is the purpose? What will be covered in the text? Keep the intended audience in mind.

2. Give an Overview – If the text is in the form of instructions, a report, or a summary, it is important to give the reader a “blueprint” of the document. State what will be discussed and in what order the information will appear. This will help to maintain clarity in the document.

3. Watch the Tense – Do not confused present tense (this is, it is, etc.) with past tense (this had, it was, etc). Yo-yoing back and forth between tenses can leave the reader confused as to what is presently happening as opposed to what has already happened.

4. Avoid Personal References – A technical document is meant to be informative and useful. The document is not meant to tell a life story or to form a conversation or debate. Avoid using words like, “I, you, me, he, she, us, we,” and so on. Those words are fine in a personal memo, or in a status update, but in a technical document such as a report or instruction set, such words take away from the formality of the document.

5. Avoid Contractions, Slang, and Clichés – In technical writing it is important to maintain a professional and formal tone. In order to maintain the tone, it is best to avoid contractions (isn’t, wasn’t, shan’t, won’t, etc.) Use the full words (is not, was not, shall not, will not, etc.) to maintain an appropriate tone. Avoiding slang is also important to keep the document formal.

6. Get to the Point – There is no need for excessive use of adjectives and fussing over details. The person reading the document only cares about the factual information that the document contains.

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Comments (2)

excellent article, I don't do too much technical writing how ever technical writing as in a manuel is often filled with you take this and do that, but I agree well written manuals that the word you out of it so it because take this do that, which is more of a command.

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