The Value of Technical Writing
Staying ahead in 2021
COVID is the new normal and as part of this email, proposals, reports and documents have become even more critical as we continue to distance ourselves from interactions with others. Now more than ever, clear, effective, efficient written communication will not only get you what you need, it will set you apart from your peers.
So, what is Technical Writing?
There are two views; The first is that Technical Writing is writing about technical things, for example, to communicate scientific and technical information clearly and accurately. The second is that Technical Writing is a form of procedural or instructional writing, for example, policy documents or instruction manuals for non-technical subjects such as accounting or gaming.
In either case, the purpose of Technical Writing is clear communication to instruct the reader, to share the knowledge of how to do things or how things work. The focus is on presenting facts and information in an easy to read manner. The language used is straightforward and objective.
Thus, we can say that Technical Writing is the professional activity of producing instructional materials to help people use a product or follow a process.
Why should I attend Technical Writing training?
Whether you are an owner, technician, manager, or employee, you are expected to write emails, deliver reports, tenders, specifications, business cases and proposals to achieve beneficial outcomes for your organisation.
To remain competitive, you need to produce documents that are clear, accurate and tailored to the audience. This competitive edge will also bring internal savings around time and success in sales and customer satisfaction.
Ineffective communication is a known risk factor for successful delivery in a broad range of situations. Strengthening your skills to deliver effective and targeted writing is a simple action that can reduce this unnecessary risk.
For example, the average person reads at 250 words a minute or roughly one page per minute. An intermediate report is 20 pages long, which will take 20 minutes to read. Technical Writing training can help to improve a writer’s efficiency. If the author of the report had enhanced their skills by attending a Technical Writing Course and applied the concepts, you might see an improved writing efficiency of 20% with no loss of information and enhanced clarity on the topic.
With 50 less words per page over a 20-page report, 1,000 words are saved, which reduces reading time by 4 minutes. Considering the number of emails, reports, tenders and articles that are read daily, you are wasting time reading poorly written communication. By improving writing efficiency and clarity, you are not only saving the time of the reader(s), you are also gaining extra time where the additional pages of inefficient communication are not written in the first place. The business savings are easy to calculate.
Types of Technical Writing
There are many types of Technical Writing. One type describes features, such as menus, text fields, etc. This is useful if a user has never seen a system previously; however, as a standalone guide, will not allow them to use the system or follow the process.
Another type explains how something works. This often cannot be achieved without describing features to some degree, but ultimately, the focus of this type of Technical Writing is procedural, so a user knows how to do what the guide explains.
A third type of Technical Writing is utilised for reports and business presentations. Being able to succinctly communicate key ideas in a clear and well-defined manner is a valuable skill. Technical Writing courses help you understand how to write an executive summary, how to recognise your audience and structure your report findings accordingly and how to communicate without pages of filler content.
Characteristics of Technical Writing
The key characteristic of good Technical Writing is efficient and effective communication. You achieve this by getting your message across with the least effort and with the least distraction. A user will quickly lose interest in reading documentation if they cannot easily comprehend the content and find the information they are seeking.
Another characteristic of Technical Writing is to be audience specific. Often an engineer or software developer is the subject matter expert, and they are tasked with writing the user documentation. However, what if the user does not possess the same amount of knowledge as the writer? The writer must ensure that their intended audience understands the terminology they use and that the level of detail is appropriate to the user’s needs.
For example, a technical guide can be grammatically well constructed and factual, but not be effective in communicating due to formatting or ambiguous wording. Similarly, an in-depth, highly descriptive procedural document may not be the most efficient way to communicate a process to an end-user.
By understanding the elements of good Technical Writing, writers can ensure that they are delivering the highest quality user documents, which communicate in the most efficient manner possible.
Technical Writing is often dense and full of jargon that is indecipherable to all but the subject matter experts. The secret of good Technical Writing is to be able to convey complex technical concepts and ideas clearly so that both expert and non-expert audiences can understand and benefit.
“The storage facilities consist of a number of steel fabricated cylindrical bottles. The bottles, linked by header tubes, are sited in an area adjacent to compressor building, the ground having been excavated for the purpose of siting the bottles, the earth being subsequently replaced such that the bottles are now subterranean.”
When re-written with Technical Writing principals in mind, it becomes:
“Storage consists of cylindrical steel bottles. The bottles, linked by header tubes, are buried beside the compressor building.”
To ensure you are providing the most efficient and effective communication, you need to:
- Learn skills to maximise communicative efficiency
- Understand which writing styles obstruct readability and comprehension
- Utilise contemporary technical writing practices
- Be familiar with stylistic conventions of publishing (professionally or within your corporation)
- Have a good foundation in grammar and punctuation
- Understand the common elements of report writing and procedural writing.
Benefits of developing Technical Writing skills
Technical Writing skills have a very broad application base. They will help you to deliver consistent, clear and concise technical documents. They will allow you to build the practical frameworks and skills necessary to translate complex information into reader-friendly documents. If you are required to write reports, tenders, specifications, business cases and proposals, additional Technical Writing training can keep your skills relevant. It will also enhance your ability to produce technical specifications for customers and help you understand how to structure a technical document.
ATTARs in-depth Technical Writing course is offered in both a classroom format as well as an online interactive webinar. The course covers the following:
- Fundamental characteristics of good technical writing
- Planning a technical writing project
- Writing technical reports and proposals
- Writing step-by-step instructions
- Document design and usability
- The language of language
- Aspects of grammar
- Obstacles to readability
- Troublesome words
- Vital punctuation
Whether in a classroom with your peers, or in the digital environment, ATTAR’s Technical Writing course is highly interactive and engaging. The topics as outlined are delivered over two days and the training provides real-world examples, practical exercises, interaction with other participants that brings the learning to life ensures participants practice and embed the knowledge they obtain from the training. To book and find out when and where these courses are being run, visit our Technical Writing page.