Editing and Proofreading Techniques

Careful reading of a document, to detect any errors in punctuation, or grammar, or spelling is referred as proofreading. Proofreading also involves checking elements in the document for their placement, correct dimensions, etc. Revising, arranging and preparing a written document for final production other than creation of materials is referred as editing. Editing involves detection and removal of grammatical, factual, elimination of parts not suitable for targeted audiences, and typographical errors.

proofreading

Following are some general tips for proofreading and editing.

  • As a first screening use spell checker and grammar checker, but do not depend on it.
  • Read the entire content slowly.
  • Carefully read type in very tiny font.
  • Closely review header, footer and page numbers for correct order.
  • Review a hard copy.
  • Read your text backwards.
  • Develop the habit of using more than one method for editing or proofreading your work.
  • Do not try to proofread for everything at once. Focus one issue at a time.
  • Do not use fluorescent lighting when proofreading.
  • Make a list of things to do before proofreading or editing.
  • Create your own editing or proofreading checklist.
  • Most importantly find a quiet place to work

One of the best methods to prepare yourself to proofread is by writing at the end of the day and edit first ting in the morning.

logo_bw

Golden Rules for Technical Documentation

3-13-2013 11-06-54 AM

We have been working on some thoughts about what, how and why we are writing a document. We have come up with few golden rules, which help technical writers to deliver an informative and well-scripted document.

Always keep in mind technical writers Write to inform, not to impress!

Following are some of the golden rules, which each tech writer should follow:

Rule 1: Be Clear

Be clear in your content and think about the real objective of your content. Avoid using phrases and clichés that do not mean anything. Avoid proprietary words that may puzzle the audience and the end-users.

Rule 2: Be Brief

Try to avoid the stuffing contents such as welcome message or overly long instructional text for online forms. Cut your text in half and shorten paragraphs.

Rule 3: Be Creative

Try to be innovative, use a diverse way of representing message, other than paragraphs or texts. Instead of boring paragraphs of text and titles, use billboards, charts, and infographics. These might encourage users to stick with your document.

Step 4: Be Compelling

Know your audience, be excited, be confident, and be bold. Use words that resonate with your audience.

Rule 5: Mind Your Grammar and Spellings

Spellings and grammar distracts users from the message in the content. Always try to implement one idea per paragraph.

Rule 6: Use Templates

Usage of templates enables easier content development, easier gathering of content and makes content consistent.

Pay for quality documentation and your users will be happy. Carefully consider the document formatting, spelling and grammar.

logo_bw

Tools used in Tech Writing

logo_bw

Writing, editing, designing, and publishing skills form the foundation of technical writing, but these skills are just get you started. You need to know how to use help authoring tool, graphic package, publishing tools and web designing packages. Recently WritersUA conducted a survey on tools used in technical writing. The survey concluded that some of the most popular tech-writing tools are Adobe Acrobat, Madcap Flare, Adobe Framemaker, Adobe Captivate, Dreamweaver, Snag IT, Microsoft Visio, and Camtasia Studio.

Though tech writers write various kind of documents, design website and deliver various multimedia training tutorials – publishing program are the basic tool of tech writing industry. Some of the most popular publishing tools are Adobe FrameMaker, Microsoft Word, InterLeaf, and Adobe PageMaker.

Tech Writers are not expected to be experts in graphic artists, but they are expected to have basic graphics knowledge. If you plan to do any kind of documentation, you need to know how to capture screen and edit them manually with the help of tools. Some of the best screen capturing and editing tools are Adobe Illustrator, PhotoShop, Microsoft Paint, Snag IT, and Corel Draw.

Tech writers need to learn at least one Help authoring tool. To create one self-contained Help doc, you need to know how to compile complex document into a usable format. Just ensure that document is completely functional within the limited scope of your project. There are many Help packages available, you can download any help authoring tool and get started. Some of the  most used help tools are Adobe RoboHelp, ForeHelp, HelpnDoc, and DocToHelp.

logo_bw

Skills Required to be a successful Technical Writer

 

logo_bw

Technical writers are the channel between the people who crafts the technology and the users of the technology. Technical writers work in various fields, such as product documentation, software development, information management, usability, Web design, and health information. Although the array of positions in the field, technical writers must possess few specific skill sets to be successful.

Following are some of the basic skill set that a technical writer should possess:

Writing skills – For a technical writer, writing abilities can never be disregarded. Technical writers should write in a clear and crisp way and to be able to convey messages applicably for a variety of end-users.

Tools skills – A technical writer needs to know way around computers, since they are used to create documentation in a variety of file formats. Specific tool knowledge, such as MS Word, Adobe FrameMaker, RoboHelp, MadCap Flare, and even Adobe PageMaker is a must for all technical writers to produce technical documents.

Design skills – Gratitude for the visual is one of the important part of the skill set of a technical writer. Even the most primitive technical documents didn’t comprise of just the written word. With a growing scope the technical writer needs gratefulness for visuals and formatting as well as graphic skills. Depending on the needs, these skills may only need to be elementary or they may need to be very radical.

Ability to write in brief and awareness of tools are necessary skills for becoming a successful technical writer.

Technical Communication

Technical communication is an extensive field that comprises many form of communications that reveals one or more of the following characteristics:

  • Communicating about technical specifications or any related specialized topics, such as software applications, products, medical events, environmental policy and many more.
  • Interacting by using technology, such as help files, web pages, or any social media sites.
  • Providing tips about how to perform something efficiently, regardless of how technical the task is.
  • User manuals help users be more accurate on their own, improving how easily those products gain recognition into the marketplace and minimizing costs to maintain them.
  • Instructional specifications help one group of experts to communicate efficiently with other technical experts. This result in speeding up development cycles, reducing risks and minimizes rework caused by miscommunications.
  • Training programs present people with new and improved skills, which make them more employable and their organizations and products more capable and safe.

Technical communicators or writers have in common is a user or audience centered approach to provide the particular information, in the correct way, at the specific time to make the end-user’s life easier and more dynamic.

bw

 

Document Development Life Cycle (DDLC)

bw

DDLC is a complete cycle of documentation. It is a structured set of various steps involved in creating any kind of document. To achieve success in the field of documentation, a technical writer should at-least have a conceptual knowledge of DDLC.

Following are the various phases of DDLC:

Requirement Analysis:

Requirement analysis is the first and one of the most important phases of DDLC. In this phase, technical writers analyze the project requirement, tools that will be used in this project, and audience knowledge level. Analysis of project enables technical writers to know about the type and need of the technical document.

Project Designing:

This phase includes the content representation and content collection i.e. how the content should be presented, in which format the document should be presented, how much page should be covered to script the requirements, and so on. Technical writers should make an effort to gain as much as knowledge about the technology and audiences from SMEs (Subject Matter Experts) and Internet. A good bunch of information helps a technical writer to prepare an information rich document.

Developing the content:

In this DDLC phase, the actual content is scripted on the basis of project designing and planning. Graphics and illustration are prepared in this phase.

Editing or Proof Reading:

In this phase, the document is thoroughly checked for consistency and errors such as spelling and grammatical errors.

Publishing:

Parent authority publishes documents created by tech writers. Generally, tech documents are published either in hard copies or in digital formats. Several publications options can be used based on the client’s requirement.

Maintenance:

In this phase, a backup of the document is taken for the future use. It also includes collection of further updates and modification of the document.

bw

History of Technical Writing

bw

History of Technical Writing is an interesting fact for the writers to know. When this profession came into view, not much importance was given to it but consequently it emerged as the most important professions in almost all the Organizations worldwide.

Technical writing profession actually emerged in the early 1900s but it was recognized only after the Second World War.
During 1887, the higher level English was not included in the curriculum of various engineering schools. As a result, many engineering students were not trained to write. Engineering teachers were not giving much importance to English as they assumed that technical subjects are more important than English for engineering students. At that point of time, technical writing had a very low prestige, and if taught at all it was taught by very inexperienced faculty members.

Prior to the U.S. Civil War, a few books on the subject of technical writing were released in the early 1900s, but the crack between English and Engineering persisted and technical writing was not considered as a serious discipline.

Technical writing became a genuine profession during and after World War II; when the war-time technologies were translated into peacetime use. After the war, General Electric, General Motors, and Westinghouse developed technical writing units within their organizations.

On October 4, 1957, the Soviet Union successfully launched Sputnik I and this was the world’s first artificial satellite. The size of Sputnik Satellite was about 183 pounds.

By 1957 various colleges and universities introduced technical writing courses and the engineering students required some form of technical writing training. The successful launch of Sputnik and the beginning of the US Space Program significantly enhanced the need of technical writers.

With the introduction of ISO 9000 during 1987, a series of quality system standards that depended upon high quality written communication was introduced and that was how the requirement for technical writers started increasing day by day.