Technical Writing, a form of technical communication, is a style of formal writing and business communication, used in fields as diverse as computer hardware and software, chemistry, the aerospace industry, robotics, finance, consumer electronics, and biotechnology. Good technical writing clarifies technical jargon; that is, it presents useful information that is clear and easy to understand for the intended audience.
Before you release a product, have some people use it. From these "test users" get solutions to problems, tips and knowledge that would help your real-life Users. Put that information in your User Documentation, and on your product support website.
This recommendation is based on the American ANSI Z535 standard. I am not aware of any other similar standards from other standardizing organisations. If you know of such standards, please e-mail me, and specifically tell me if and where it differs from the information given below.
Normally I like to write positive stuff and I really love Uxmatters.. it’s a great site. BUT, the recent article PDF Manuals: The Wrong Paradigm for an Online Experience from my perspective is pretty much everything that’s wrong with Help today.
Next to writing an enthusiastic thank you note for socks received as a birthday gift, the most difficult task for many writers is creating a help wanted ad that succinctly defines the requirements of the position while encouraging only perfect candidates to apply.
Three components of American English create great difficulty for Chinese-American college students and professionals trying to improve their technical writing. They are the articles ('a,' 'an,' and 'the'); prepositions; and verb tense. This paper reveals key reasons for these difficulties and explains how to ease them. It is meant to assist teachers, editors, and the Chinese-Americans who write for them. As a starting point, teachers and editors need to know how the Chinese language differs from English in its treatment of these three components. So informed, they can take appropriate actions to bring about improvement.
Not all manuals are created equal. Some are infused with the character and skill of their creator, and rise above the mere paperweights that line the shelves of used bookstores of small-town USA. Some examples of technical writing are so effective, even enjoyable, that they earn a place in the memory of readers. Here are a few technical writing examples that have earned my admiration.
The first impulse of many documenters is to turn our work over to editors and graphic designers, or to form committees and develop style guidelines. All of these measures are useful, but none can assure us of quality when there are basic problems with the way we go about producing documentation.
Writing software manuals is boring, isn't it? We often think, "My software is easy to use. The user interface is intuitive. Why should I waste so much time writing documentation which nobody will read anyway?" Sometimes it's true. I've never read the WinZip or Internet Explorer manuals. Everything seems clear enough without further explanation. Nevertheless, even if your manual isn't being helpful to your software users, it may be helpful to you. Publish your manual online and turn its hidden power into a real benefit for your business.
Want to know the secret to better quality documentation and improved software design? Will Kelly outlines how the key is an effective relationship between project managers and technical writers.
The remarkable growth of the information technology industry has created a tremendous opportunity for people with skill putting words on paper. Technical writers, once a rare and highly skilled position, are now as common as fruit flies—though they take up a lot more space. Yet the pay is pretty good considering how little work they actually do, so young English-major weenies desperate for employment continue to swarm around IT companies, hoping for a bit of rotting fru—er, looking for a plum position.
When you finally get the approval to hire a contract technical writer you'll want to go about it the right way in order to avoid problems and ensure success. This article provides insight on what you need to do before you start looking for a contract technical writing professional and how to go about finding one suitable for your project.
Technical writing has been around since the first technical writer, Cro-Magnon man, was drawing on cave walls. However, most experts would agree that the golden age of technical writing started with the invention of the computer. Here are some of the major milestones in technical writing history over the past 60 years.
In this article, I look at the changes dictated by the technological breakthroughs and research in technical communication, and the tools writers employed to make the information clear to the user. Most of the information in this article is from the Technology Review section of the STC’s Technical Communication journal volumes published from 1967 to 2003.
If you have all the resources you need, do the very best job you can in all respects. But if your resources are tight, ask yourself whether you are writing the essential stuff at a level of quality users will notice. Also, ask whether the value of the documentation you are producing aligns with the economic pressures on your company.
For many technical writing companies the issue of how to manage all the associated 'non-writing' costs can be a sensitive area. Do I charge for every email? Every phone call? Where do you draw the line? What do you charge for, besides the document you produced?
A college degree can help you in technical writing, though maybe not in the ways you expect. How relevant is a college education for the field of technical communication? A couple of very good and influential tech writing blogs have recently discussed this issue.
I enjoy creating content. I like to take words and arrange them to convey ideas, paint pictures, spur thought, and give guidance. I like thinking about what arrangement of the words will bring the best impact. I write not necessarily because the world turns on ideas or because information is a buyable product, but because words have a lasting effect on people.
How can we know something that is totally unfamiliar to us, such that we’ve never experienced or conceptualized it in the least degree before? This question is more philosophical than practical, but it does play a part in our role as technical writers.
Of all the visual cues in your help interface, color is one of the strongest. Users will recognize and react to the color of each element in your help window before reading a single word of text. Color allows users to determine the purpose of each element on the computer screen. When designing the visual aspect of your help content (via CSS and so on), as well as the help interface itself, be sure to use the same color for objects that share a purpose.
The impending launch of Google Wave is something for every technical writer to watch. Because if they have been doing their job the same way from day one, then Google Wave's undertow is going to pull them down into the surf. However, if they are embracing online collaborations tools, instant messaging, and related technologies then they are going to think Google Wave is game changer for technical communications because it offers a new range of communications and collaborations options.