The Write Way

Defending Your Writes

Men passing a clipboardFor Robin Casper, a lead designer and draftsman for a flight controls' engineering team, the ability to produce clearly written and effective documents is at the top of his checklist. A vital part of Casper's job is getting feedback on and resolving issues that arise during production.

As such, writing technical documentation that clearly communicates both the issues and the solutions is a vital part of his job. But with an audience that comprises mechanics, engineers, and management, Casper often runs into a challenge that has nothing to do with aircraft design: What to do when one part of his audience keeps asking for changes that don't successfully translate to the other groups.

No room for misunderstanding
Casper’s position requires him to gather feedback about problems with the company’s systems, interact with the shops to help mechanics resolve issues, and respond to supervisors’ concerns. Clear communications are an absolute necessity; there’s no room for misunderstanding when attempting to find the solution to a problem.

“Clear writing is critical,” Casper says, “because I write engineering instructions when there is a requirement to address an issue in production. This allows us to have a procedure to follow while the investigation for a permanent solution is started.”

His greatest technical writing challenge typically crops up when supervisors review his documentation.

Casper explains, “I have had supervision write and rewrite, and we end up with a document that is above the broader audience’s head. I work on explaining that the mechanics just want to know what the problem is and how to fix it. Management wants things written for an engineer!”

Casper’s challenge is a common issue in many corporations (as discussed in “Practice Makes Perfect” in this issue of The Write Way).

Standing by your writing
When Casper learned that Hurley Write would be offering a technical writing workshop at his company, he signed up immediately in the hope that he could improve his writing. He was pleasantly surprised by the experience.

"The writing workshop was actually fun!" he recalls. "The atmosphere promoted learning and encouraged participation. And the writing instructor was outstanding: she kept everyone involved and made the workshop enjoyable. Her experience in writing and dealing with corporations and the typical document, which is anything but clear and concise, made it fun."

Aside from some general ideas to expand the type of material he reads to "expand my knowledge base," Casper gained some important technical writing skills. "Keep it simple when you can. Less is more. And keep writing all the time, no matter what it is" were some of his most valued takeaways.

He also learned the importance of personal review and revision. Now, rather than submitting an early draft, Casper lets his documents sit for a night before rereading and revising them. Perhaps most important, he learned to stand up for his writing — and his audience.

"I learned that my writing is not bad," he says. "I need to stand by what I write. After taking the workshop, I'm more confident in my abilities. Now, I am not submitting the first draft of anything I write. My writing is to the point and geared for the appropriate audience. I believe my writing is clearer, more thought out."

Technical, business, and scientific writers who find themselves facing similar challenges (multiple audiences, challenging revisions, or the need to defend their writing) can benefit from Hurley Write's online or onsite writing instruction.

Are you tasked with writing technical content that non-technical readers can understand? Hurley Write can show you how. Email or call us toll-free at 877-24-WRITE (877-249-7483).

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