Posts Tagged ‘ Technical Writing Adelaide ’

The Process of Writing a Technical Manual

A technical manual provides most valuable information on a product, service or company’s operating procedure including instruction on how to use, handle, and repair a system. The process of producing a technical manual is a team effort. In most of the cases, a technical writer is given only 10% priority of the whole project. Other priority includes designers, developers, testers, and editors. The whole project picture is usually seen by the project managers. Whether a technical communicator is assigned to do a user manual or technical manual or maintenance manual or any other technical document, he or she should know the process involved.

One of the first steps to document a technical document is to meet with company employee who is capable of providing relevant information on the product or service.  These individuals can provide information that can be included in the technical document, which vary from one organization to another. Varying information includes organizational flow charts, history, equipment, process steps, terminology, additional resources and abbreviations. Illustrations such as charts, graphs, screen shots plays a very important role in comprehending a process and will likely enhances the popularity of the manual.

Before starting-up with any documentation, it is essential to determine the table of contents. Dividing the manual into subject or topics can help the end users; this enhances the readability of the document.

Once the basic flow of the manual is determined, break each category into sub-categories. For example, operation manual should include section on basic operations and also advanced operation procedures. Writers must compile the manual in such a way that the section flows in a natural order.

 

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.

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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Technical Writing Deliveribles

Technical writing is a broad field that embraces different types of documents used for specific purpose in various fields such as science, construction, engineering, industries, and business. Technical documents are written keeping focus on the type of end-users being targeted.

Types of Deliverables:

User Manual: User manuals are the explanations or instructions written to help end users of the product. Most important property of user manuals is simple language, since it is mostly targeted for non-technical users. Writer’s job is to cover all the minute details of the product and include troubleshooting tricks and clear explanation of difficult technical terms.

Reports: Reports are prepared at all levels for various purposes. Perfect formatting and layout design are very important in a report. Reports require severe research and data analysis. Some types of report include case study reports, business and sales reports and academic project reports.

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Spec Sheets:  spec sheet is an information sheet that illustrates manufacturing and construction process. Spec sheets are widely used in instrumentation, production and medical industries. Spec sheets are mainly targeted to the service providers or contractors, who will analyze the information and estimate the scope and technology required for the completion of the project.

Abstracts: Abstracts are brief guides of a report that summarizes the whole project or report. Abstracts summarize the important information in the report, and include topics or chapters that are covered in the reports.

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