The instruction manuals, assembly manuals, and research papers, if not done correctly, technical article writing can quickly become a snooze fest.
How can one write a technical article that people want to read?
1. Determine Your Target Audience
Knowing your target audience is critical, especially when writing a technical article. For example, a new dad learning to build his first crib may have a different level of medical knowledge (and sheer focus) than an experienced doctor reading a medical research paper. When you know who will read your piece, you can adjust your vocabulary, tone, and framing accordingly. This allows you to meet your reader at their level of understanding.
2. Conduct Extensive Research
You will guide your reader through uncharted territory as a technical writer. You could explain how a new electronic tool works, what to expect from their new workplace, or what occurred before their firm took on a new legal case. It is critical that you fully comprehend your subject matter.
You can only teach what you know, and knowledge gaps emerge when you don’t conduct thorough research. Put yourself in the shoes of your readers. Assume you have no prior knowledge of the topic, and ensure your research covers all potential questions.
3. Forget about the word count.
Some writers rush to a word count, viewing it as a yardstick. Word count is a poor predictor of completion in technical article writing. Technical writing should be as brief as possible. The exact instructions can communicate in 500 or 5000 words. Regardless of word count, the best instructions are the most effective for the reader.
Use word count as a guideline rather than a rule. Never cram words onto a page to meet a word count. The reader should express themselves in fewer words.
4. Make an Outline
We recommend outlining to help you understand what to include in your piece. This can also aid in identifying informational gaps as you conduct your research.
When creating longer-form content, such as white papers or case studies, an outline can serve as a guideline to help you remember what you need to include. A template may use in place of an outline. Some types of technical article writing, such as business plans, have industry-accepted formats that include sections such as an executive summary and competitor analysis.
5. Be timeless
A technical document is your contribution to future generations. Yes, you are imparting technical knowledge to readers now and in the future. Most technical writers are concerned with today’s audience, which is also essential to future readers. A site assessment can be reread for 30 years or once the asset is purchased. The software instructions form the basis of a future manual for an updated version.
To write timelessly, always include dates and timelines where applicable. Include no time-sensitive or transient information. If necessary, explain the current context to future readers. A health and safety report, for example, refers to current legislation. The act is carefully identified to distinguish it from future revised codes. Your document should be clear and understandable now and in 20 years.
5. Emphasize readability
Technical writing is not creative because you are writing to teach rather than inspire or entertain. When writing about complex subjects, using readable sentences can make your work more enjoyable to read. On the other hand, being verbose or using difficult-to-understand words will only frustrate your reader.
Try these tips to improve readability in technical content:
Use simple language: Strive for shorter, more direct sentences that are easy to understand, and avoid using the passive voice whenever possible.
Hyperlinks and jump links: When writing technical content for websites, include hyperlinks to any material you reference and links to other sections of your piece to make navigation easier.
Use subheadings: Subheadings can help break up long text walls into longer-form content such as user documentation, white papers, and research papers.
Bold sections and callouts: Highlighting paragraphs or callouts for emphasis will make reading easier.
6. Use Global English
English is an international language. Technical documents written in English can be widely read and shared. Many readers, however, will be non-native speakers. Use Global English to accommodate all readers. This English style is logical and literal; it is easy to understand. It is closely related to the technical writing principles of precision and clarity.
Furthermore, global writing necessitates being aware of content that may be difficult to understand or misunderstood. Avoid idioms and the subjunctive, as well as words that can serve as both a noun and a verb (e.g., display or guide).
7. Include visuals
We’re all about words and writing, but visuals can help your technical writing be more understandable! Adding visuals to technical writing is less of a luxury and more of a necessity. Flowcharts, screenshots, and illustrations can add much-needed color to text-heavy documents. Everyone will be happier with product drawings showing the directions or a pie chart displaying the numbers, whether you’re creating a user manual or an annual report for stakeholders.
8. Make use of attributions.
Attributions are effective. They allow the reader to refer to relevant details without directly including them. Readers who require extra information can easily find it, while others can continue reading without being buried in background information.
9. Trim the Fluff
When you’ve written everything down, it’s time to double-check the facts with collaborators. During this writing phase, feel free to cut out unnecessary information.
How do you spot the fluff? Removing fluff does not affect the readers’ comprehension of your text. It could be a single word, a sentence, a paragraph, or an instruction step. Every word in your technical document should be meaningful.
Good planning and focus on the audience are essential components of technical writing. The suggestions above provide various perspectives and practical methods for achieving these objectives.