November 8, 2015
Technical writing is more demanding than that of your everyday content writing because it has a clear purpose – to present a tech product in simple language as to be understood by ordinary people. So here are some precious insights about how to successfully complete your job in this working field. (If you're not at all interested in or involved in technical writing, you should still read why writing is an important skill).
Personally Test the Instructions
Sometimes, it is pretty easy to put down some instructions when you are familiar with that certain product. But first-hand readers may get lost if things are not crystal clear. As a consequence, the wise thing to do is to test the guidelines yourself through the eyes of a clueless customer.
This step may not always be possible. Sometimes the products are too expensive to have access to them. The best thing to do in this case is to go through a personal research process, instead of writing what your colleagues are indicating to you.
Work Closely with the Quality Assurance Department
Work smart and collaborate with the people who know best the product. The quality assurance (QA) department is responsible with testing and noting the assets and the downsides of each item. Most times, they even write test cases and create different testing environments. Use their materials to learn essential data in the blink of an eye! If the QA doesn’t have all the information, turn to the manager. Ask him/her about the various business scenarios the product will be faced with.
Keep It Simple
IT personnel always forget that not everybody is a tech geek. They overestimate the audience’s knowledge in the field and complete elaborate documentation. But here’s your role – to keep things at a basic level, easy to understand by all types or users.
User Feedback is Essential
After completing the documentation, it is vital to test it on real users. This is the only way to find out if everything is clear and functional. Users may point out aspects that are missing from their point of view. Or they may note that the language is not as accessible as you may have thought.
Collaborate with Other Writers
This sort of text needs multiple points of view, in order to function at a large scale. Accept any help you can get to create a useful documentation understood by a various type of audience. The following freelance writing communities are one of the most helpful ones in delivering insightful advice and exchange of opinions from its members:
- Technical Writing World
- Freelance writers cartel
- Freelance Writers Den
Concentrate on the Content
There are a lot of tech writers who focus more on the design, than on the actual text. Sure, tools are important too, but the content is the essential part. It is the one helping users to effectively employ the product.
When it comes to instructions, a large number of people need visual materials to be able to understand the theory. So add all sorts of visuals – charts, screen shots, graphics, schemes, diagrams, illustrations, etc. The audience will appreciate these extra materials.
Always Include Examples
What better way of explaining something than giving a practical example? Ask testing users to spot hard core theory fragments. Next, try to clarify things with one or more concrete examples. Employ different approaches for each example.
Stay on Top of Trends
IT industry is ever changing and evolving. New technologies appear all the time. In this situation, writers must keep learning and improving their tech knowledge. A great way of doing this is working on different projects, with different products.
Write with Web Format in Mind
Never forget that the target audience is online and so will be the documentation. Remember the features of online texts – short and clear, straight to the subject, interactive, searchable keywords, easy to update, and so on.
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