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7 Ways to Improve Your Technical Writing

Here are seven quick tips to improve the quality of your technical documents.
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When you write a technical document, consider the following points:

1. Analogy – provide a comparison or analogy to describe how something abstract works.

Not everyone is as familiar with the system as you are. Try to help the reader along by giving as much direction as possible so they see the bigger picture.

Once they understand how the system works at a high level, they will have more confidence in reading the more technical details.

2. Break long sentences into shorter sentences. Don’t overwhelm the reader with long, meandering sentences, with endless clause and other waffle.

Keep to the point.

Use short sentences that focus on one action at a time. Avoid double negatives.

3. Definitions – create a list of definitions and acronyms. Always explain what the acronym means when it’s first encountered.

4. Glossary – make a glossary, even for a half dozen words. Again, avoid taking a superior attitude with the reader and forcing them to find out what technical terms may mean.

Be supportive of your readers.

They may be reading your technical documents when under stress or very tired. Don’t make a bad day worse by complicating things.

5. Graphics – Provide graphics to illustrate how something works. Flowcharts, state diagrams and use case diagrams are all very helpful.

Flowchart in Technical Documentation

Download this Microsoft Visio Flowchart template

6. Replace general, abstract, and objective words with concrete, specific, and simpler words.

7. Use terminology consistently. Don’t switch terms throughout the document.

If the document is written by several writers, and you’re the editor in charge, make sure to revise the document so that the tone, pace, and language is consistent.

These points are not meant to be all-inclusive. However, if you are new to tech writing, this should put you on the right road.

So, what have I missed here?

Please help complete this list so writers, especially those who are new to the field, get a better understanding of what’s involved.

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4 thoughts on “7 Ways to Improve Your Technical Writing

  1. I agree with all 7 points and really need to apply all these points when writing. There's a lot that I can learn from you.

    I guess in technical writing, because the content itself gets so technical, it's good to put in some humor where ever possible. One reason why I love Dilbert Comics.

    Just stumbled on your blog today. Will be promoting Klariti on my site pretty soon. Hopefully it goes well.

    Have a good day.

    Weng Yee
    http://www.wareprise.com

    1. Thanks Weng Lee,

      Finding ways to keep the users attention is really the goal – if humor works, then use it.

      Gilbert’s great and The Far Side, my fav.

      Ivan

  2. I agree with all 7 points and really need to apply all these points when writing. There's a lot that I can learn from you.

    I guess in technical writing, because the content itself gets so technical, it's good to put in some humor where ever possible. One reason why I love Dilbert Comics.

    Just stumbled on your blog today. Will be promoting Klariti on my site pretty soon. Hopefully it goes well.

    Have a good day.

    Weng Yee
    http://www.wareprise.com

  3. […] Seven steps to clear techncial writing […]

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