technical writing

... confusion raises doubts.

Technical writing myth

A stubborn myth persists about technical writing. It’s this: technical writing is supposed to be hard to read and understand.

Nobody says that, of course, but judging from what many companies publish, it’s clearly what they believe.

Why? Because often the subject matter truly is formidable.

Therefore, it’s supposed that writing about single-particle spectrometers or glucose metabolism in cells need not follow “normal” writing rules. After all, smart people read technical documents. And isn’t it true that smart people enjoy expending themselves to read plodding, dense copy because… well, how else would they prove their brain power?

Half right. While it’s true that smart people can interpret technical concepts correctly, extract a valuable lesson in the process, and enjoy the satisfaction of learning, they prefer doing so on their terms. Put another way, the reader of a technical document dislikes when a publisher imposes on him or her.

He or she will only read what they need and/or want. No exceptions.

Listed below are three problems that commonly plague technical documents.

Problem 1: Relevancy

Subject matter is the most important feature of a technical document. The reader must be interested in the information you’re providing.

Writing quality hardly matters if you’re asking the wrong questions, diagnosing the wrong problem, or selling the wrong solution. Topical relevancy attracts and keeps the reader.

Problem 2: Jargon

Jargon, even within an industry, varies by geography, job title, company, and more. Therefore, before using it in a technical document, you must know for sure that the reader will understand it, which will require additional research.

While jargon can be appropriate in technical writing, it’s usually cheaper and safer to use words with an unmistakable meaning.

Problem 3: Medium

Technical writing more than other copy suffers from a medium “problem." That’s to say, the best medium for transmitting information isn’t always the one selected. The problem stems from legacy.

For example, a 38-page white paper detailing the reduction in embodied carbons in the building industry might be more effective as a series of blog posts. It really depends on reader preference and habit, not the writer’s or publisher’s.

High cost of bottlenecks

Poorly written technical documents are a liability to any company. By failing to answer reader questions, they divert inquires to salaried customer support representatives.

They complicate the onboarding process.

They destroy brand equity.

The purpose of technical writing is to communicate information.

At minimum it should be factually accurate, clear, and consistent with terms (e.g., don’t use “press” and “depress” interchangeably). Going beyond the text, the writing should be helpful, readily accessible, and formatted for easy reading.

If your present copy doesn’t meet this criterion, consider removing, replacing, or improving it.

For that, I can help you.

Schedule your free, no-obligation consultation today.