Planning a Technical Document

             

We’re frequently asked about the most common writing mistakes and our answer is always, it depends. Depends on what, you may be asking. Isn’t good writing good writing good writing? Sure, but it still depends. The “mistakes” that writers typically make are more than just surface errors such as grammatical and mechanical errors. They typically emanate from problems that the writer has before s/he ever begins to write. Lack of planning is a big issue for many writers. Writers should spend about 80 percent of their time planning the document and only 20 percent of their time writing, but most writers do this backward. That is, they spend 20 percent of their time planning, if they plan at all, and 80 percent of their time writing and rewriting, and rewriting… you get the picture, and may have even been involved in this vicious cycle yourself. So, what’s involved in planning? The first thing is to understand your reader—how they read, what kind of information they’re looking for, how they’re going to use the document, and what they need from the document. In addition, writers need to know the reader’s role in the organization (whether they’re a decision-maker or something else), how busy they are, what biases they may have (both toward the writer and the topic), their tolerance for the message and the reader (believe it or not, not all readers are happy to read your document just because you wrote it!). If possible, consider creating an audience rubric, or checklist, that will help you better understand your readers. Need a rubric? Contact us!