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By: CJ McGillivrayPublished On: March 7, 2022
Broadly speaking, technical writing is informative or instructional content designed to help readers understand a more complex subject, process or concept. This particular writing style covers a wide range of print and digital content. Technical writing typically includes press releases, investor updates, product manuals, user guides, instructional documentation, repair manuals, business reports, and corporate proposals, among an endless list of other things. But what exactly makes good technical writing? Read on to learn about the most common debate among technical writers, the types of questions you should be asking yourself, and how you can personally elevate your technical writing, taking it from boring to brilliant.
One major debate among technical writers is whether or not the content should be intentionally boring. Some writers argue that technical writing should always play it safe, and must be consistent to the point of tedium. That means no adjectives, no synonyms and no paraphrasing yourself through your document. The most boring writing often does come from a desire for consistency. Sometimes we care so much about helping the reader understand, that we repeat ourselves and end up losing them. But if you are really focusing on the user experience, you cannot afford to have bland technical writing. Obviously you cannot use playful adjectives or metaphors in technical writing, but there are other ways to engage the reader while remaining professional and informative.
Most marketing managers would agree that effective technical writing should be informative and concise, without being too longwinded or overly complex. That often means avoiding unnecessary commentary and cutting straight to the point. You do need to take the user on a clear journey though, even if you are writing simple instructions for a repair manual or you are updating some outdated terms and conditions. Whether or not you have taken a UX design course online or in the classroom, you probably already know the importance of narrative based on your experiences as a customer or client.
Beyond these basic measures of quality, technical writing should be completely accurate and properly researched. Linking back to quality, reputable sources in a technical article also has the added benefit of improving your domain authority for search engine optimization. The language and word choice in technical writing should also be consistent, relatively impersonal and clear enough that anyone can understand regardless of their individual experience or technical background. Try to balance innovation with consistency so you and your reader are always on the same page.
Even if these qualities do not come naturally to you, you can develop your insight through a digital marketing certificate program or UX design course. When you know how to step back and consider the whole picture, you will be better equipped to determine the information hierarchy and architecture of your document. Whatever you do, remember to consider your reader above all. Even if the subject is impersonal, you are sharing the information for a reason and your reader is engaging with you because they have a problem that needs solving.
Before publishing or sharing content, you can elevate your technical writing by asking the following questions:
Strong technical writers have inquisitive minds and continually push for clarity where there is none. Instead of trying to sound intelligent or impressive in your writing, focus on finding that clarity and sharing it with your reader. After all, the goal of all writing is to share ideas and make a connection with the reader. The maxim applies whether you are writing a short tweet or a lengthy user manual. Users have questions and your goal should always be to help them, providing clear answers and straightforward guidance.
The information contained in this post is considered true and accurate as of the publication date. However, the accuracy of this information may be impacted by changes in circumstances that occur after the time of publication. Ashton College assumes no liability for any error or omissions in the information contained in this post or any other post in our blog