Technical Writing in the Professions

Technical Writing in the Professions
Technical Writing in the Professions

Technical writing is more than just following a set of format and style guidelines, generating documents that are ready for the printer.

It’s about exceeding client expectations and managing multiple changes in a document simultaneously. In order to work at their best, technical writers need to be proactive, efficient, and organized – qualities that are not always easy to come by when you’re dealing with multiple deadlines scattered across time zones.

 

This article will cover some common challenges associated with technical writing as well as several solutions that you can implement in order to successfully manage your document projects regardless of their size or complexity. You’ll learn a variety of tips on how to avoid common pitfalls and stay engaged while your deliverables are being developed.

 

Many of the tips in this article have been culled from my experience working with technical writing clients as well as my own projects, and have been incorporated into a simple checklist that will guide you through the process of developing a technical document. I’ve included some sample documents to provide examples, but most of them are based off real projects that I’ve worked on.

 

The fact that these tips work for me is no guarantee that they’ll work for you or your clients – or even that they’ll work for every project. But this checklist will certainly help you to take a step toward better managing your document development process and improving your overall quality output. Let’s get started!

 

Stay vigilant!

Your job is to identify (and hopefully avoid) any potential pitfalls, inconsistencies, and errors in your projects. A big part of staying vigilant involves documenting both your original plan and the actual process you followed so that you have a full log of all changes made as your document progresses through its life cycle.

 

Most important for technical writers are the changes to content and style – this should be a priority! As difficult as it may be to stick with one style throughout a project, consistency will keep all parties involved on the same page throughout your document’s life cycle. Using a checklist has been shown to work well in other areas of life as it helps you to keep track of all the activities you do as you go about completing tasks.

 

This list can be developed as worksheets for each project, or as a comprehensive document containing each project. Either way, this key part of your checklist should be the most frequently used by all parties involved, not just by technical writers.

 

You should discuss the importance of this document with your client early on in the process so that everyone is on the same page and has a clear understanding of what is expected from it and how it will be used. The only exception to this rule would be if your client requests that they keep their changes confidential.

 

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