It's true that technical writing isn't easy, but that doesn't mean that you should shy away from it. Instead, check out these tips to up your writing game. You may find that you have an inner technical writer after all.
- Keep it Short
You've probably heard this tip for just about every kind of writing, but for technical writers, every word matters even more. Because people come to technical writing looking for direction, the last thing you want to do is tack on extra verbiage. In other forms of writing, you might find that you add a few words here and there for personality. Try not to do that in technical writing. Generally, technical writers want to keep things as dispassionate as possible, for ultimate clarity.
- Consider Your Structure
When you're doing a technical piece, you need to make the information as easy to absorb as possible. One great way to do that is to look at the structure of what you're writing. Bullet points, lists, and short paragraphs are a great way to make sure that what you're writing is easy to read and understand.
- Use Simple Sentence
Generally, in writing, you want to vary your sentence structure a bit, so that people don't feel like they're reading something in a monotone. Technical writing? You want to make sure that you put the most important information at the beginning of the sentence, which means you may get a bunch of really similar styles of sentences that kind of feel choppy. That's okay! Technical writing is about conveying information, not about beautiful words. If you use simple grammar and get the most important information in first, you're making sure that more people can understand what you're talking about -- which is again, the whole point.
- Edit, Edit, Edit
This again, may seem like a general writing tip, but editing for technical writers is a bit of a different process than when doing creative or copywriting. What you're looking for is the ability to streamline the writing. Cut out any useless fluff. Shorten sentences and make the format better. Make anything complex easier to understand. Once you've done that, it's time to put it to the test...
- Ask a Friend for Help
One of the biggest things I can advocate for technical writing is to hand it over to someone you trust to read it over. If you're not allowed, as per your contract, you can try to read it again on your own, but that's basically the editing step all over. By asking a friend to read it over, you can see where your writing has fallen short. They should be able to understand everything that you've written, and if they can't, it's back to the drawing board. Make sure that you pick a friend who's willing to be honest with you, though. That's probably the hardest part of all!
If you've ever struggled putting a product together because the instructions were unclear, you've seen some bad technical writing in action. Just knowing where technical writing can fail will put you in a good position as a writer to really rock. Following these guidelines and responding positively to any feedback can help you gain the confidence and skills you need to expand your writing abilities and call yourself a technical writer.