Five Must-Have Technical Writing Tips
Technical writing can be a daunting undertaking. Whether trying to convey an idea, process, or specific instructions, the goal is always the same: For your audience to walk away with useful and accurate information. What is the best way to accomplish this? Here are five must-have tips to will elevate your technical writing.
1. Keep it Simple
Technical writing already involves complex subjects and processes. The worst thing you can do is complicate things even more for your reader. Here, simple is better. Be clear and concise with your writing. Take out extra words. Don’t use long run-on sentences. Get the point across as quickly as possible, preferably in the first part of your sentence.
Some easy methods for simplifying are: using bullet points or a colon, splitting up sentences, avoiding long paragraphs, and eliminating unneeded words. Simply replacing, “As you can see by examining the graph above,” with “The graph above indicates” not only uses 50% less words, but is stronger in conveying your point.
2. Know your audience
A huge mistake writers of all genres make is not keeping their audience in mind. Even more important in technical writing, you must know your intended reader and what level of background knowledge they have on your subject.
Using technical jargon without explanation is okay when writing is aimed at professionals in that specific field of study. Writing an informative piece aimed towards individuals with little knowledge on the topic? You want to explain or include a quick definition when using field-specific lingo or acronyms. It might seem obvious to you and other bank savvy individuals that a CD is a certificate of deposit. But to others it’s a compact disc or drag coefficient.
Forgetting your audience is the easiest way for confusion and misinterpretation.
We discuss this topic in more detail here, along with when to contact a professional writing service.
3. Leave out personal opinions
Lacing your personal feelings or emotions into a piece is the quickest way for your technical work to be discredited. Remember, you’re trying to share factual information, not persuade readers to take a side by playing on their emotions.
Stay away from person pronouns like “I”, “us”, or “we”. Your goal is to describe the process of fracking. If you want to share your feelings on whether fracking process is good or bad, write an opinion piece. This is not the place. In technical writing, it is a good rule to keep everything in third person and base all statements off facts or examples.
4. State your sources
Welcome to 2019. The internet is riddled with fake news. So what is going to make people believe that your technical piece is indeed fact and not fiction? Answer: References.
Anyone can say that the four forces acting on an airplane are lift, weight, thrust, and drag. Add it was said by NASA, and your reader’s trust in this statement skyrockets- no pun intended.
Being able to give specific support and examples from reputable sources increases the audience’s trust in the author and reassures them that the information contained in the article or book is factual. Plus, we won’t leave out the whole “give credit where credit is due” and that plagiarism is bad reasons either.
5. Stay on Topic
Similar to staying clear and concise, it is important to stay on topic. It is easy for writers to get distracted- you start talking about how water molecules are formed and - before you know it - you’re suggesting different experiments to learn about surface tension. While interesting, this is not related to your technical writing goal and will just cause confusion for your audience.
It's good practice to write down the overall intention of your technical paper and keep it next to you as you write. Ask yourself often, does this sentence support my objective? If not, consider deleting or rewording.
Technical writing can be challenging, but it’s not impossible. Write down your purpose, and keep it in mind as you work. Be simple, explicit, and stay focused. And remember, if you need help writing or editing your technical projects or papers, BestDraft LLC is here to help!