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Technical writing explains technology and other complex topics to various audiences. It communicates factual information about a topic that requires specialised knowledge, and it helps the reader understand the subject. Effective technical writing makes a complex, specialised subject understandable to a wider audience.

Effective technical writing:
  • Fulfils its purpose—it helps the reader understand
  • Meets the needs of the audience—it explains specialised knowledge in such a way that non-professionals can understand it
  • Provides information clearly and concisely
    • All terms are defined
    • Sentences are short
    • Tables, graphs and other visuals are interpreted within the text
  • Compartmentalises complex information with clear transitions and summaries
Poor technical writing:
  • Is verbose—it’s more difficult to write with fewer impact words than to overdo it with unnecessary words
  • Doesn’t care about the audience—it’s more concerned with making the writer look smart
  • Is not rewritten or proof-read—the writer is not professional
  • Lacks organisation—concepts are addressed before they’re explained; no flow of contiguous ideas
These eight steps will help make the technical writing process easier:

1. Get your ideas on paper. Write for five minutes without regard to spelling, grammar or punctuation. Just get something on paper. Then go back and rewrite, fixing mistakes.

2. Profile your audience. You MUST know your audience. If you’re writing on the history of permafrost in the northeast Arctic and your audience is meteorologists, then you will write quite differently than if the audience is the neighbourhood garden club.

3. Ask yourself for the bottom line. What is the one idea you want your readers to come away with?

4. Outline. You may or may not find outlining helpful. Some people do better without an outline. But it is an excellent way to organise your facts.

5. Just write.

6. Take a break. Take breaks, but try not to do so when "you’ve got some momentum" It’s hard to get back into that mindset.

7. Edit for power. Remember KISS—Keep It Seriously Simple.

8. Proof-read for perfection. No one will trust your writing if it’s rife with errors and typos. Proofread as if your writing life depends on it.

To gain more valuable insights that will help you climb that success ladder, attend any of SkillPath’s energising seminars. Check out our schedule of upcoming training opportunities coming to a city near you.

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