Before you sit down at the keyboard to type your next technical document, consider these five tips to enhance the effectiveness of your writing:
- Word Choice
Take some time before you start to consider your audience (and their vocabulary), and the purpose of the documentation. Speaking to your audience in a way they will understand may require specific vocabulary. Also take time to organize your thoughts by drafting an outline.
Avoid needless complexity in your writing. For example, substitute use for utilize, feature for functionality, and previous for heretofore. Large, unnecessary words may enhance your own impression of your writing, but they won’t enhance clarity for the reader. Also avoid ambiguity by using clear words that effectively express your meaning. In addition, don’t overuse ambiguous pronouns like “it” or “this.” Read our blog Standard Technical English (STE) Rules According to Star Wars for a fun, in-depth explanation.
Improving the clarity of your writing may mean avoiding industry jargon or common phrases used within your department or company. While these references make sense to you, they could be lost on your audience. This goes back to keeping your audience in mind as you write. Take time to define materials, terms or ideas that may be unfamiliar to your readers.
Here you can apply the adage “less is more.” This may require several edits until you grow used to writing more concisely. Remove redundancy so your reader doesn’t become impatient. Also, be sure to include the most important information first, so the reader doesn’t have to dig through a document or skim paragraphs before they find answers to their most pressing questions.
Remember to use details wisely. Only expand on items that require extra explanation for clarity. Avoid the temptation to give the reader more information than they actually need.
For more suggestions on ways to improve your technical writing, click here.