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How to Impress with Your Technical Writing #2: Best Practices for More Impressive Writing

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Posted June 18, 2024

The ability to communicate effectively through writing can significantly impact your organization’s success. In our first article in this series, we addressed how your team’s technical writing affects client impressions of your organization. In short, if your team’s writing is hard to read or understand, clients will lose confidence. If, however, your team’s writing is well-targeted to the reader, easy to read, and genuinely helps intended readers, your team will build trust and impress your clientele.

In this follow-up, we want to dig into the how. Specifically, what are some best practices for ensuring your team’s technical writing shines and leaves a lasting positive impression?

1: Get Writing Training

Foundationally, if your team is struggling to produce impressive documents, the first step should always be to build their writing skills. In fact, one meta-analysis of multiple studies on writing quality evaluated a variety of specific writing interventions and measured their relative impact on writing output. At the top of the list: writing instruction.

However, not all writing education was equal. Grammar-related instruction had one of the lowest effect sizes (-0.17, as measured by researchers). Instead, the single largest intervention was teaching specific writing strategies (effect size 1.26). This makes sense if you think about it: while writing a skills-based practice, it’s also deeply strategic in that you’re always trying to solve problems with your writing, and that requires strategy.

In fact, writing training is so valuable that it can easily pay for itself. In an ROI analysis, we estimate that a small business could generate an ROI of 9,968% simply by writing faster. Then, if they could increase their conversion rate thanks to more compelling and effective writing quality, we estimate they could increase business enough that it would be like adding an extra salesperson, for a total ROI of 7,668%. Those are big numbers! Follow the links to see a complete breakdown of the ROI calculation, but for the moment, understand that improving writing has the power to impact business outcomes much more powerfully than many organizations realize.

2: Focus on Readability and Usability

If your team’s technical writing is designed to solve problems—helping readers operate your products more effectively, for instance, or more clearly understand technical subject matter—the writing serves as a tool that the reader is using as a means to an end.

So, when it comes to technical documents, we can think of their effectiveness in terms of writing quality and in terms of document usability. In other words, your readers have a goal when they consume your written materials: they need instruction, education, or guidance. A document that is more successful in meeting the reader’s goal is both more useful and more usable. Improving the usability of your team’s documents can be massively impactful; research by the Nielsen Norman Group shows that well-crafted content improves usability by 135%.

Similarly, use language appropriate to the reader to express your ideas in a highly readable way. This is not a straightforward issue, however. For maximum comprehension, written content should be tailed to an 8th-grade reading level. However, that may render content that is bland or overly simplistic for certain readers. Pew Research Center finds that 57% of adults prefer more advanced written materials. The key is to match your writing’s comprehensibility to the reader reading it.

3: Know Your Reader

So, tailor your writing style and content to the needs and expectations of your target reader. In particular, ensure the writing will successfully solve the reader’s (not the writer’s) problem. For example, if it’s an operating manual, ensure the reader will be able to understand and use the material well enough to produce good results from the product.

As a corollary rule, always remember that your writing is for and about your reader, not for or about you. As a Texas A&M International University analysis of academic-style writing versus proposal-specific writing says, “As one of our university’s consistently successful grant writers put it: ‘My epiphany came when I realized that grant programs do not exist to make me successful, but rather my job is to make those programs successful.’”

In the end, more impressive writing will facilitate stronger relationships with your clients, yielding better outcomes for everyone, including your own organization.

 

For a proven partner in writing instruction that can achieve real-world business results, contact Hurley Write for a consultation to assess and find the right solution(s) to your team’s writing needs.

How to Impress with Your Technical Writing #2: Best Practices for More Impressive Writing

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Prefer to chat? Call us at 877-249-7483
Prefer to chat? Call us at 877-249-7483
 

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