A SOP aims to increase consistency, quality and compliance of repeat operations. Example: laboratory employees use a standard operating procedure to complete potable water analysis. At long last, you can start to write! By going through this thoughtful planning process, the writing will be easier and more efficient. While the content will now be clear, you need to ensure the style of writing is suitable for a technical document.
The writing needs to be accessible, direct and professional. Flowery or emotional text is not welcome in a technical document. To ensure your text maintains this style, integrate the following key technical characteristics into your writing:. The active voice is easier to read and understand than the passive voice. Whenever possible, choose the active voice in your sentences.
In active voice, the subject of the sentence is the doer of the action.
Passive Example: The electricity meter is read six times a year by a trained technician. Active Example: A trained technician reads the meter six times a year. Choose your words thoughtfully. Use the best word for the context.
Include necessary details that make the text understandable and precise. Example: If the light flashes, then initiate a hard restart by pressing the power button. Improved: If the red light flashes on the monitor for more than ten seconds , then initiate a hard restart by pressing the grey power button. Many technical documents provide instructions to the reader. Therefore, a task-based approach makes the content easier to understand.
When writing, consider the order of the steps in the process. This flow provides a natural guide to your writing. Learn more about direct sentence structure below. Always put the most important information in the main clause. The reader will better digest the priority information. Example: Researchers indicated preliminary concerns, yet the antibiotic trial was successful. Be brief. Combine sentences or eliminate unnecessary words in sentences to make the text as concise as possible.
Technical writing must be clear and direct, so there is no need to add color or complexity. Example: It is of the utmost importance to drain the water pump after each usage. If not drained, the pump will corrode. Improved: It is important to drain the water pump after each use to avoid corrosion. Jargon is a trap for a technical writer. A non-expert may use jargon as an ill-intentioned effort to appeal to experts. Jargon should be avoided and only used when appropriate for specific audiences.
When using unfamiliar or technical terms, define the term when used for the first time in the text. When using abbreviations, write out the complete term followed by the abbreviation in parentheses for its first use. These definitions act as in-text reference points for the unfamiliar reader. Plain language has its own set of international guidance. The main takeaway is to write in a way that any reader can understand the text. Using fewer words or more basic versions of words will communicate the same meaning to your reader while being more accessible. Example: At the present time, our research focuses on the utilization of the drug to completely eliminate measles.
Improved: At present , our research focuses on the use of the drug to eliminate measles. While the heart of a technical document is its text, the visual display should not be forgotten. A wall of text is difficult to read. Even the clearest instructions can be lost in a document that has poor visual representation.
The style of the technical document carries over to the formatting stage. The formatting should be clean and professional. Well-chosen, readable fonts, sizing, and layout will assist the reader in understanding the text. Larger documents should consider a table of contents, sections, and the inclusion of appendices to best structure the information. Many companies and individual technical writers rely on templates for technical documents. Templates should be developed for clarity and with the audience in mind. Once developed, templates save time and provide a previously approved style guide.
For repeat projects, developing a template or asking if your client has a preferred template can be beneficial. They say a picture is worth a thousand words. This phrase rings true even in technical writing. However, not just any image is worthy of a technical document.
Technical information can be difficult to convey in text alone. The image should be directly relevant and be clearly referenced in both the text and in an explanatory caption. Images used for decorative purposes should never be used within a technical document.
They are distracting and do not maintain the clear, neutral style. For a deeper discussion, read our post on Graphics for Technical Writing. Good writing of any type must be free of spelling and grammar errors. There are a number of software tools that can assist in your grammatical review. The two most useful tools we suggest are:. These checks should be run first, followed by a thorough review with your own eyes.
Software cannot grasp all contexts or inconsistencies. In this review, reading potentially challenging passages aloud will test if they are accessible or awkward. Step back from the document and return to it in the mindset of the intended audience. If your document is a user manual, use the instructions to operate the product.
If your document is a new business proposal, read it as your client with their priorities in mind. With your personal review complete, the document should be reviewed by others. The reviewer could be a peer, a supervisor, or a subject matter expert. This review cycle will vary depending on the company or client. Each review will refine and improve the document. Therefore, a lengthier or more critical document will require additional rounds of review.
This review process is also valuable to you as a technical writer. External feedback will improve not only the current text but also your writing in the future. Good writing is a process. Reviewing, revising, editing should not be afterthoughts, but carefully included steps in your technical writing work.
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A CV is a technical document. There is no better place to start applying your technical writing skills. Follow the style guidelines for technical writing and highlight your career and accomplishments. While there are many valuable programs in this discipline, there are no direct requirements for a degree or diploma. Practical experience and a writing portfolio will be just as useful to winning jobs or impressing employers.
Practice this style by creating new documents for existing programs or projects.
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Is there a productivity app that you love to use, but its documentation is poorly written? Write your own and share it online for feedback. Has your office been dreading the preparation of the annual office health and safety report? Practice your technical writing skills to prepare this report while becoming the office hero. As this field is growing, there is more information about its earning potential. Most technical writers chose a focus area for their work.
The more you define your niche, the clearer your ideal client or employer will be. Choosing an industry is an important first selection step. The technical documents in finance are quite different than those in pharmaceuticals or tourism. It is possible to write for multiple industries, but you will be most effective if you select a field that suits your interests and your experience. Freelancers work for a range of clients to prepare their technical documents. As a freelancer, you can choose your clients and subject areas.
In addition, freelancers are in charge of their own business and working hours. With a growing need for technical writing and online freelance platforms, there are lots of contracts available for both new and experienced freelancers. In-house employees provide their skills to one company either as a full-time technical writer or as a technical staff with writing responsibilities.
Full-time technical writers work with subject matter experts in the company to develop a range of required documents. Companies generally prefer that in-house employees have technical writing skills because those employees often know the technical details better than anyone else.
They are the subject matter experts! The ability to communicate this expertise in writing is very desirable to employers. There is a big advantage for technical employees, such as engineers and analysts, to add technical writing to their skillset. Communication is a challenge for many companies. It is difficult to make the best business decisions without clearly communicated information from the technical departments. An employee who can bridge the gap between technical and business will be of great value in most companies. As a freelancer, technical writing jobs can be found on a number of online platforms.
The most popular include:. As an in-house employee, discuss your interest with your supervisor and offer your writing skills during project planning meetings. Technical writers are always learning. By diving into new subject areas and receiving external feedback, a good writer never stops honing their craft. To have additional educational gains, there are many courses available. Off-line courses in technical writing are available at many community colleges or technical schools. Online, there are free and paid resources available for refining your technical writing.
For example, Wikiversity has a free wiki-based course on technical writing. We offer an instructor-guided online technical report writing course to improve technical writing.
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This course is a practicum; you will build an actual technical report during the course. Of course, good writers are also voracious readers. Professional associations signal a level of competence and offer a range of professional development and networking opportunities. Currently, the largest technical writing association is the Society for Technical Communication and the paid membership level depends on years of experience in technical writing. Technical writing is a prized and profitable skill.
It is a valuable title whether you are interested in making a career shift or adding this ability to your current role. Remember, any employee who can convey technical information at work is very valuable to a company. Skill in technical writing is a real career boost.
History of Technical Writing
To become proficient in technical writing, follow this guide to start planning, writing and reviewing. Becoming a good technical writer is not an overnight process, but a rewarding investment into your communication skills and career. Instructional Solutions Business Writing Blog. Wikiversity Technical Writing Course.
Topics: Technical Writing. Business Writing Info Blog. A business writing blog offering tips and expert advice to improve your business writing skills. So, what is involved in technical writing, and how can you become a technical writer? Communicating by using technology, such as web pages, help files, or social media sites. Providing instructions about how to do something, regardless of how technical the task is or even if technology is used to create or distribute that communication.
Style Definition Technical writing has a clear, direct and neutral style. Role Technical writing is used anytime technical information must be conveyed by text. Benefits Technical writers have the great benefit of becoming lifelong learners. Growing Demand According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics , the demand for technical writers is projected to grow 10 per cent from to Prominent Technical Writing Areas There are many professions that require strong technical writing, such as financial services, manufacturing, energy, consulting, medical business, and engineering.
The Technical Writing Process It may surprise you to discover that the technical writing process can take just as much or more! Use the following technical writing process to best develop your documents. Project Preparation The project planning process begins when the technical document is requested. Technical writers are using the interactive technologies of the Web and social media to blend text, graphics, multidimensional images, sound, and video. Technical writers hold about 55, jobs. The largest employers of technical writers are as follows:. Most technical writers work full time. They routinely work with engineers and other technology experts to manage the flow of information throughout an organization.
Although most technical writers are employed directly by the companies that use their services, some freelance and are paid per assignment. Freelancers are either self-employed or work for a technical consulting firm and are given short-term or recurring assignments, such as writing about a new product.
Technical writing jobs are usually concentrated in locations with a multitude of information technology or scientific and technical research companies, such as ones in California and Texas. Get the education you need: Find schools for Technical Writers near you! A college degree is usually required for a position as a technical writer. In addition, experience with a technical subject, such as computer science, Web design, or engineering, is important.
Employers generally prefer candidates with a bachelor's degree in journalism, English, or communications. Many technical writing jobs require both a degree and knowledge in a specialized field, such as engineering, computer science, or medicine. Web design experience also is helpful because of the growing use of online technical documentation. Some technical writers begin their careers as specialists or research assistants in a technical field.
They eventually develop technical communication skills and assume primary responsibilities for technical writing. In small firms, entry-level technical writers may work on projects right away; in larger companies with more standard procedures, beginners may observe experienced technical writers and interact with specialists before being assigned projects.
Many technical writers need short-term on-the-job training to adapt to a different style of writing. Some associations, including the Society for Technical Communication, offer certification for technical writers. In addition, the American Medical Writers Association offers extensive continuing education programs and certificates in medical writing. These certificates are available to professionals in the medical and allied scientific communication fields. Although not mandatory, certification can demonstrate competence and professionalism, making candidates more attractive to employers.
It can also increase a technical writer's opportunities for advancement. Prospects for advancement generally include working on more complex projects and leading or training junior staff. Critical-thinking skills. Technical writers must be able to take complex, technical information and simplify it for colleagues and consumers who have nontechnical backgrounds. Detail oriented. Technical writers create detailed instructions for others to follow. As a result, they must be detailed and precise at every step so that the instructions can be useful.
Technical writers must be able to think about a procedure or product in the way a person without technical experience would think about it. Technical writers must be able to work well with others. They are almost always part of a team: with other writers; with designers, editors, and illustrators; and with the technical people whose information they are explaining. Technical skills.
Technical writers must be able to understand highly complex information. Many technical writers need a background in engineering or computer science in order to do this. Writing skills.
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Technical communicators must have excellent writing skills to be able to explain technical information clearly. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The median annual wages for technical writers in the top industries in which they work are as follows:. Technical writers may be expected to work evenings and weekends to meet deadlines.
Most work full time. Employment of technical writers is projected to grow 8 percent over the next ten years, faster than the average for all occupations. The continuing expansion of scientific and technical products and growth in Web-based product support will drive employment demand for technical writers. Growth and change in the high-technology and electronics industries will result in a greater need for those who can write instruction manuals and communicate information clearly to users.
Professional, scientific, and technical services firms are expected to continue to grow rapidly and should be a good source of new jobs even as the occupation finds acceptance in a broader range of industries. The growing reliance on technology and the increasing demand for complex medical and scientific information will create job opportunities for technical writers. However, there will be competition among freelance technical writers. Computer hardware engineers research, design, develop, and test computer systems and components such as processors, circuit boards, memory devices, networks, and routers.
Computer programmers write and test code that allows computer applications and software programs to function properly. They turn the program designs created by software developers and engineers into instructions that a computer can follow. Interpreters and translators convert information from one language into another language. Interpreters work in spoken or sign language; translators work in written language.
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