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What are “technical documents”? And why you benefit from learning how to write them better?
They come in all forms and sizes: market research studies, project tracking reports, job descriptions, even an inter-office memo explaining a change in policy. Any kind of objective, informative writing counts as a technical piece. Why you? Because there’s so much riding on your ability to write this kind of document. If the writing you and your staff do is confusing and hard to follow, readers stop reading (no matter how much time or research went into it). But when your writing is clear and to-the-point, your internal and external clients will look forward to reading documents you’ve authored.
Setting a clear course, so your writing stays on target
- “Clustering” … “mind-mapping” … and other handy techniques for sorting and structuring technical information
- How to size up your readers’ knowledge base and experience level
- Two questions you should answer before you begin to write
- What tone should you take? Factors to help you decide
- When to use the memo-length, short, or formal formats for your reports
Ways to organize your thoughts and outline your document
- “Formulas” for structuring various types of technical documents
- When to put information in an appendix
- Two reasons to add an executive summary — and when to write an abstract instead
- Four elements you should always include in abstracts and summaries
How to write a first draft, painlessly
- Proven ways to bust through writer’s block
- Writing descriptions that detail physical characteristics or give measurable “specs”
- “Exercise” Practice writing a technical description (for a job, object, function — whatever is most relevant to you)
- How to write tight technical reports
- How to write a condensed overview that helps people decide whether or not to read your entire document
- Ways to make dry manuals reader-friendly
- Specific “dos and don’ts” for writing technical instructions and manuals
Ways to measure your message to see if you met your objectives
- Questions to help you judge your first draft
- When it’s OK to use industry jargon … and when to write in layman’s language
- Exercise: Look at some technical writing samples and see if you can pinpoint where the message gets muddied … and how to clear it up
How to find what’s not working and fix it
- Specific words to avoid in technical writing (they undermine your objectivity)
- How to strengthen transitions, so readers move more easily from point to point
- Exercise: Practice writing instructions for completing a simple task … then revise them so they’re even easier to follow
Designing documents that grab attention and keep your readers interested
- How to use headings, subheads and captions to help your readers find their way around your writing
- Simple ways to add “visual relief” to text-heavy documents
- Tips on using pie charts, bar graphs, line graphs and flow charts
- How to use diagrams and “schematics” to illustrate physical elements (and relationships between them)
- The finer points of page layout, such as - white space, margins, line spacing, justification, borders, bullet lists, symbols and “dingbats”
- Adding emphasis with fonts, callouts, boxes and shading
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