Technical writers translate complex subjects for users. They change technical jargon and turn it into understandable text for everybody. Regardless of the industry or field of expertise, there are three important tips for writing technical documentation.
Use plain English instead of complex phrases or buzz words
Every industry and market has its own buzz words. “Discussing it offline”, “working around it”, “streamlining operations”, “thinking outside the box”, “impacting the bottom line” belong in marketing materials, not in technical documentation such as user guides and manuals. Especially for tenders and RFPs and RFIs are buzz words and jargon the kiss of death – governmental agencies require that documents are easy to read and understand.
Understand the local lingo
A technical writer must understand the “local lingo” or jargon. For proper technical writing, the writer must fully understand what a certain phrase or term means to a customer and (end) users. Technology companies have the tendency to coin their own definitions. No online research will help the writer; only direct asking the source (content provider, product manager, software developer, etc.).
Recycle and reuse to avoid reinventing the wheel
Technical writing normally deals with similar documents within an organization over time. It is therefore not necessary for a technical writer to start from scratch for each project. Unless it is a nascent start-up, legacy templates, earlier technical writing documents such as reports, proposals, and user manuals are floating around in the organization. It is therefore a lot safer (and easier) to look for templates to tweak or to use as a starting point. For odd projects, there are normally examples that can be used as an outline.
These three tips will help you as a technical writer to be an asset to a team, to contribute user-friendly and customer-specific content that adds additional value to organizations.
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