Technical writing isn't a place for the writer to prove how much more he or she knows about a topic than the reader. It's a way of explaining complex – dare we say it, technical – information in a way that educates and informs the reader. This means that, even when the topic is complicated, the writing shouldn't be : it has to teach, not confuse.
Keeping your technical writing simple is valuable. Here are some tips to clear up your writing:
- Don't be afraid to be conversational . Instead of using words and phrases like "demonstrates" or "effects a change," try "shows" or "causes." Imagine that you're explaining the topic out loud to a non-technical acquaintance.
- Know the knowledge level of your reader. If you're discussing advanced applications of your company intranet to company employees, you can assume a certain amount of familiarity on their part. If, though, you're explaining something to someone who has no familiarity with the topic, you'll need to build their knowledge from the ground up, including introducing them slowly to any terms and definitions they'll need to know.
- Break down instructions into simple steps. Each step should cover a single action (or a set of actions so closely related that understanding one means understanding all of them), and should be described clearly and simply.
- Trim useless words. The example above, "effects a change," uses three words where one would do – and one of those words, "effects," isn't commonly used in its verb form. Always look for the most concise and clearest wording.
- Use present tense. You're writing something to inform the reader about a current task or technology, so unless you need to include historical data (example: "This system was installed in 2003, and the upgrades installed since then make maintenance more complicated..."), write in present tense.
When done well, technical writing is like a window: you can see straight through the prose to the information you need. For more technical writing tips, contact us at Hurley Write, Inc.