Archive for June, 2013

How Engineers Can Improve Technical Writing Skills

Engineers are highly technical people who essentially don’t mean they are good technical writers. Engineers should understand that they are documenting their ideas and not to impress. This is the main key for successful documentation. In this article we shall discuss some important points that an engineer should follow before documenting any product or service.bw

One of the main Keys for successful documentation is “keep it simple”. Relaxed writing style can add clarity and vigour to your documents.

Know Your Audiences: Before documenting any product or service you must know the knowledge level of your audiences (end-users). Your document should serve the purpose. Assume the document is intended for lay people and you have written the document for engineers, then the document is of no use. You have to re-write the entire document.

Be Concise: Technical personals are busy people, so your document should be crisp clear and concise. Avoid usage of redundant words. Avoid usage of wordiness in which a modifier repeats an idea which is already conveyed.

Be Consistent: Inconsistency in the document may confuse your readers, and convince them written document is disorganized. Good technical writers strive for consistency in the use of grammar, technical terms, symbols and abbreviations.

Avoid Big Words: Sometimes Writers prefer to use big words instead of short words. Use simple and straight forward English, your readers will love you for it. Some of the big words used are terminated, optimum, and incombustible and so on; these words can be replaced by the end, best and fireproof.

Use Visuals: We all know that a single image represents 1000 words, so drawing, graphics screen-shots can re-enforce your text. Visual representation can make your document more attractive and more effective. We remember 12% of what we read, but 35% of what we see. Different types of visuals that can be used in the documentation are photographs, schematic diagrams, tables, graphs, charts (Pie, bar, graphs), and maps.

Use Active voice: In active voice, action is expressed directly. In passive voice, the action is indirect. Statements written in active voice are simple, easy to understand, and concise. When possible, use active voice. Your document should be vigorous and straight.

Prefer Specific Over General: Technical end-users are interested to read detailed specific technical information such as facts, recommendations, figures, and conclusions. Be specific whenever possible; contents should not say something is good, bad, fast or slow, but instead it can say how good, how bad, how fast and how slow.

Breakup Writing into Short Sentences: Long, unbroken blocks of contents intimidate and bore readers. Break your content into smaller chunks–makes it easier to read and understand. In the same way shorter sentences are easier to grasp than longer ones.

I hope the above tips help engineers to improve their technical writing skills.

Technical Writing Training Course In Bangalore

Black And white tech writing solutions in Rajaji Nagar, Bangalore – Training Institute at Yet5.com.

Why do we need technical writers to write technical documentation?

Technical writing is currently a booming industry in India. A professional technical writer is the one who handles technical writing in an organization. Knowledge on industry writing standards and also about the tools that are used to create a more appealing document is necessary for a technical writer. Here in Black & White Tech Writing Solutions we have a team of talented technical writers who possess the knowledge and talent in creating technical document of international standards. We help organizations to provide better user adoption and cut down cost on maintaining a technical support forum.

Technical writing is a process of creating documents on complex technical concepts and instructions in simple steps, so that users can perform intended tasks in a specific way with ease. The process of writing a technical document involves translating technical information into documents that are both precise and concise. There are different types of technical documentations that include release notes, product installation guides, walk through demos; whitepapers and case studies.

The most commonly known technical documents are the user guides and product manuals. Users of any hardware or software products would be aware of these documents.

A technical writer is a professional who possess technical knowledge with good writing abilities. A technical writer should be able to create technical material in a concise and effective way.

For a technical writer to present information in the most appropriate manner, he/she should first be aware of the target audience and the goal of the document. For example, a user manual for java JDK software will require minimum technical information as the audience here would have more technical knowledge when compared to audience for a user manual of a television, which is written for general public.

Documents can be printed or posted online, but before doing that they should follow some similar guidelines, layout and structure in giving information to maintain professionalism in a consistent manner.

A good technical document should follow many formal standards or guidelines. Technical documentation will have various styles and formats to choose from. These are usually chosen depending on the medium it is used and subject area it has to cover.

Generally, technical writers follow formatting conventions described in a standard style guide. The two most used style guides being MSTP (Manual of Style for Technical Publication) and CMS (Chicago Manual of Style). There are also many tools used by technical writers to make a document more appealing and also professional. The tools are necessary to create or customize both text and visual graphics in the document.

Technical writers generally follow five procedures in creation of a technical document. They are:

  1. Analyzing the audience for whom the document is been created.
  2. Collecting all the required information of a product that is been documented.
  3. Coming up with a project plan and a document layout to give a structure for the document.
  4. Proof reading the document created to make sure there are no typographical errors, such as errors in grammar or spelling.
  5. Sending the document for detailed final review from subject matter experts or the technical team.

On acceptance of the document there is a sign-off mail sent by the reviewed team confirming the successful completion of document creation.

Though in some smaller organizations the developers themselves try and create technical documentation, their lack of writing skills are clearly displayed with inconsistent document structure and improper format.

To create a good technical documentation it requires more knowledge about writing format other than just having a good command over language, which a technical writer is trained to possess. Documents that are created with proper documentation knowledge confirm proper use of styles and accuracy in both technicality and writing.

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Major Challenges Faced By a Technical Writer

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Each job has its own challenges and opportunities. Lets us understand the challenges faced by tech writers in the field of documentation. Here in this blog let’s have a discussion about the challenges faced by tech writers. Following are some of the major challenges faced by tech writers in the field of documentation.

  • Analysing the Audiences

Knowing the knowledge level of the audiences is the major task associated with tech writers. Before getting started, writers should have a thorough knowledge of the end-users. Writers should also have a clear knowledge about purpose of the document, media of publication, and location of the end-users.

  • Gathering Required Information from the SMEs

Most of the times, SMEs might not have time to explain the product or process to the documentation team. It is a sole duty of tech writers to gather clear information from SMEs.

  • Reviewing the Document

Once the document is completed by tech writers, it must be reviewed. Often SMEs (Subject Matter Experts) find it difficult to review the document created by tech writers and give their feedback. This problem is faced by all tech writers. This problem can be solved to a small extent by distributing the work to non-writers and look how far they can understand the product or process using this document.

  • Team Work

Personality conflict occurs when people work in a group. It is applicable to tech writers too. Generally once a document is completed; it will be reviewed and edited by senior writers or by SMEs. This is to ensure that proper information is conveyed in this document. But, this leads to clash between SMEs. Often, writers find it complicated to implement suggestions from various sources.

  • Need for Quality Document

Most of the software developers feel that tech writing is not much important as development. The condition has changed, now everyone is expecting a quality document for their product and services. Now, success of the product lies in the quality of the document.

Following are some of the other challenges faced by tech writers

  • Little or no information about the product or service.
  • Computer and tool problem.
  • Last minute changes.
  • Limited access to product.
  • Poorly defined products.
  • Lack of control over the work environment.
  • Deadline

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Why User Manuals Are Important For Any Product ?

All the companies require content that professionally communicate the benefits of their products. Here in Black & White Tech Writing Solutions we develop a comprehensive user manual for your products to help better user adoption and trim down dependency on technical support forum. We line up our services with your products in order to assist users to become more productive.

User Manual is a technical document intended to provide information and instruction on using a particular system. These are mainly related to software, computer hardware and electronic goods.This manual contains written guides and its associated images and also includes instructions and explanation on how to use the product effectively and efficiently.

User-Manuals or user guide tells people how to use the product in an efficient way. User guide includes information about product’s feature and highlights the main features that are used frequently. User guides usually contains step-by-step description about how to use a particular system. Good manuals are limited service, expensive to produce, the territory of experts, and difficult to maintain. The guide comes with template with perfect word–to–word link, which allows writer to produce professional looking manuals.

User-Manuals provide information on how to use a particular product. This should reach end users with intent to provide proper usage advice and reduce the risk of bringing the product inoperable condition. Sometimes improper usage of product such as heat and fire generating devices; lasers and high voltage devices can cause serious injuries or death. Placing appropriate labels within the manual warns end-users and protects the manufacturer from serious lawful consequences.

Usually manuals are used by engineers or sales persons for explaining the customer on how to use a particular feature on the device. A good comprehensive manual consumes less time in explaining about the feature. This of course requires good technical knowledge about the product and the skills of a technical writer.

User-Manual serves as a sales literature for your product. None of your product brochures or case study will provide enough information for a sales person or an engineer, who is looking for a particular feature. Only user-manual/guide will provide everything in one place that is requested by a client before raising quotation.

Any technical document including user-manual represents how you treat your customers. You really don’t want your customer to be angry or confused and think that your product is useless and wasting his time. So, we recommend each and every product should have a user-manual or operational guide.

Black and White tech writing solutions is an end-to-end documentation company. We believe that a writer is a voice that promotes the company’s products, success, commitment, and achievements. Black and white tech writing solution is based in Bangalore, India. We possess a well versed team of creative writers and technical writers. We provide end to end documentation service, which include marketing collaterals, user manuals, White papers, installation guides, and spec sheets. Black and White offers technical writing training for aspiring writers.

For more information on technical documentation visit www.bwtechwriting.com

If you have any queries on technical documentation, drop an e-mail to info@bwtechwriting.com or Contact us on +91 9845236875.