A Guide on Technical Writing and Technical Writing Training Courses
Have you ever glanced through the user manual when you have purchased a piece of new equipment? Or have you grown a chance to look into the guide for your practical experiments or a summary of your technical book which is new to you?
At times we would have given thorough thinking, how we would set ourselves to this new equipment or understand the overview of the technical book if there was no guide or technical summary and thank the person who wrote it. So, the person who writes these are known as a technical writer, and this activity is called technical writing. This article is an effort to give you better insight, on how to achieve technical writing and some of the best technical writing training online courses available.
Introduction to Technical Writing
In simple words, technical writing is one form of writing, wherein the technical knowledge or information is documented in such a way that any new person reading the documentation will get familiar with the technology or product. The documentation can be in the form of diagrams or simple sentences.
The person who is into this writing is called a technical writer. This document is considered effective if the written data is precise, clear, well organized, and is targeted directly to the required audience. This document doesn’t indicate the feelings of the writer, it mainly focuses on the description of technical information the writer wants to convey.
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Components of Technical writing:
The technical writer needs to ensure thoroughly that, they are covering the required foundation elements to deliver effective content. These details are better taught by established technical writing training institutes which will be discussed in due course.
The basic components which must be included in an effective technical article are:
This is the subject on which the writer is going to write upon. The product doesn’t mean only an electronic product, it can be hardware, software, water heater, toaster. Before starting the writing, the writer must understand the product.
They must go through the product description, requirements, and functionality. For writing updates for an existing product, existing technical documentation must be verified before posting further updates. To add better clarity to the writing, one can write their experience of using the product.
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Being in touch with developers would add an advantage to the writing. As they have built the product, they would give a clearer insight into the product description which makes the product easy to understand.
One should also ensure that they maintain a good relationship with the developer as their communication would be smooth and they would adequately provide major details, benefitting the writer. Along with the product description, they would also mention the new features and the likely problems one would face while using, and the solutions for the problems.
The people to whom the article has been written are considered as the audience. Like, for the Java script, the programmers are the audience, for the aircraft manual the flight crew members are the audience. But at the same time defining the audience would be a very difficult part, as we need to ensure the right people are getting benefitted.
Along with having a basic rough idea, one can also consult the marketing manager to know more about the targeted audience. In addition to that during the initial stage, one can attempt to talk with a random audience and conduct a survey. From the survey analysis, one can get the required targeted audience.
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Features of a Good Technical Writing
The below-mentioned points would describe how good technical writing should be.
· The document must contain all the details including FAQs, which makes it complete.
· The contents of the document must always be in sequential form making it clear in understanding.
· The document must also be logical, as illogical data possess no meaning.
· The document should be action-oriented. It should contain specific instructions on how and what are things must be done to make the product functioning.
· The document must be well organized, i.e., adding comments wherever necessary providing the audience a comfortable environment to understand.
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Types of technical writing
There are three common types of writing
· Traditional writing
· End-user documentation
· Technical marketing content
This is mainly written keeping a professional audience in mind. Writing for research papers, programming guide manuals fall in this category.
- Medical papers: the research results and findings are difficult to explain. So, to make it better for understanding the technical writers assist researchers to write technical papers in simple words. Technical writers always must ensure that proper credit is given to the written papers.
- Professional reports: along with providing support to a scientist in writing research papers, technical writers also help in making business reports.
This is written for keeping the audience who are going to use the product in mind. Most commonly this is referred to as the Operation and Maintenance Manual for pieces of machinery such as toasters, washing machines. This is mostly an instruction-based document. Here the sentences are preferably framed in very simple language.
User Help Guides: this is mainly used when the document is software-oriented. When the user who is generally a programmer while running a program gets stuck, they refer to user help guides. These guides are written in the form of questions and answers and are commonly termed as “Frequently asked questions”. These questions are prepared and answered by analyzing the product to know the likely questions which would arise while using the product or software.
Product Manual: these manuals give an insight into a product, its features. Maintenance procedure and its operating mechanism. We can commonly see product manuals for washing machines, cars, refrigerators, etc.
Assembly Guidelines: these focus on how to assemble the product physically. This consists of a step-by-step instruction list, which must be followed in an orderly manner.
Technical Books: the audience usually focused on are technical students and professors. The technical writer is hired in this section to write a guide for the technical subject.
Technical Marketing Content
This is a new topic that is generally learned by aspirants in good technical writing training institutes. Once the product is developed and if it is not used by the consumer due to lack of understanding, then the effective utilization of the product is not done.
The technical marketing content forms a bridge between developers, users, and businesses to understand each other. One can be an expert in this if they have very sound knowledge on how to use the words and know about the product.
Case studies: this consists of the experiences of the user using the product, and also explains how they have resulted in the growth of the company.
White papers: this consists of details of the success of the company and along with that, the services provided with the product.
Proposals: this comes into consideration mainly during business meetings while commencing a new project. A technical writer writes a proposal with the consent of both companies.
Brochures: these give complete details of the product on a handy card. The technical writer must use their words very effectively to make the data fit on the card.
Skillsets required for a technical writer
“Technical Writer” sounds simple and one usually feels it’s a very easy job as it is mainly focusing on writing about the product. But there are many hidden blocks in being an efficient one. Below is the checklist that one should go through so that they can rate themselves. If the essence of technical writer and their skill sets are properly known or explained by technical writing training institutes then this would clear the blocks of the path.
· A good writer should possess very good writing skills. As their main work is to bring down complex technical sentences into simpler sentences. Though it sounded like some talented work, it is not true. Any person who loves to write an attempt. But yes, this needs a continuous practice of writing and along with the practice, one can also attend training sessions to upgrade their skills.
· A good writer must also be a good listener and reader. These skills are very important when it comes to a technical writer. This work includes listening to the audience, developers, managers to gather useful data. One has to even read about the product from the product description which can be further reframed in simple sentences. Yes, we can also add patience as one of the key qualities.
· A good technical writer should also have the skill of researching and exploring. This applies to all the subdomains of technical writing. One should gather all the required data no matter how small the data is.
· One should have the ability to work with required technical tools which are designed for technical writing. By working on these tools, one can deliver efficient documentation as they would enhance the quality. These tools would mainly help in formatting parts of the documentation thus reducing time. A good technical writer must also know what is good and trending in the market so they can gather useful information.
· Preparing one technical documentation is not an easy task. Many times, you need the help of many other cross-functional teams to complete documentation. Hence the writer must be very good at working along with a team so that work would go smoothly.
· The writer must have good critical thinking ability. So that, they can gather data, analyze and generate the proper output.
Elements of Technical document
The basic elements which are required for a complete technical document are as follows:
· End matter
This is the cover of the document. The contents present in the front matter would give an overview of the product. What content is present in the body, who is writing it, and for whom, how the contents are presented in the document and how to locate them. The front matter comprises the following parts:
· Title page – This is memoranda, which tells the reader if the reading of the document is worthy enough. This page contains the title, author, date, project number.
· Abstract—this paragraph is present right below the title page. This is a summary of the whole document written in 80-100 words. This consists of information about the product, its features, how to use it, all in brief. An abstract consists of the problem, method, results, and conclusion.
· Table of Contents – this shows the list of contents the document contains. It also covers the page numbers of a particular subject within. This is helpful for easy navigation.
· List of Figures – this contains the list of all the figures present in the whole document. It also covers the page number in which the particular figure is present.
· List of Tables – this contains the list of all the tables present in the whole document. It also covers the page number in which the particular table is present.
· List of terms- this contains the list of the new and important terminologies to be noted along with their respective page number.
· Acknowledgment—this part of the front matter is for showing gratitude to the contributors who can’t be considered as co-authors but indirectly contributed towards the technical writeup. In the other words, the technical writer acknowledges all the important books/authors/journals the writer referred to while writing.
This part contains detailed information of the product including description, the process of installation, commonly asked questions. The body of the document in general contains the following:
· Introduction—this gives an idea to the user regarding what topic they would be reading. It gives an estimate of what they can expect from the current document. Starting the introduction with a general statement is recommended.
· Background – this part of the body is explained in a brief paragraph about the previous work that had happened on the project, any specific event in the history, and its origin.
· Theory—this comes into consideration when the documentation is mainly based on experimental results and formulae. In these scenarios, extra space can be set to update the brief theory behind the formulae.
· Design and Decision Criteria – this focuses on the goals of the company asset and what is the decision taken by the company for achieving the required value.
· Materials required – this comes into consideration when the experiment gets conducted. The materials required to experiment must be written without fail.
· Procedure – this consists of a step-by-step method of how to obtain the product by conducting experiments. This is mainly documented for experiments.
· Work plan—this provides descriptive data on how the project would work, under whose guidance, the subparts of the project, and many more.
· Results – this section shows the expected result which is obtained, and these would be in the form of laboratory results.
· Discussion – this is the section in which the results obtained are discussed and justified with facts and figures.
· Conclusion – this constitutes the final part which summarizes the documentation along with results in a paragraph. This is a very important part as many readers won’t be having time to read the entire document, rather they would focus only on the conclusion.
· Recommendation— post conclusion, the documentation at times ends with few recommended actions to be done. Some would suggest further studying or research whilst some would end up in few brainstorming questions. These come under the recommendation part.
Different formats of Technical writing
There are different ways of writing for a different scenario or as per requirement. Every technical writer must know these for a meaningful document. They are as follows:
· Technical content –this type of writing is for the educational requirement. The writers must be familiar with all the types of technical content so they can write it easily. The writer even refers to various sources to present a collective detail.
· Technical MCQ with description –this type of writing is used in the education domain wherein Multiple-Choice questions (MCQs) are asked as a part of the curriculum. So, to make it easy, few technical documents are written in which the MCQs are written along with a relevant explanation.
· Policy and procedure writing – in this, policies for various organizations are written. If certain organizations require to have procedures for their processes written then technical writers must write it for them. Policies and procedures manual writing includes contents related to the public, human resources, government, religion, and others.
· Financial writing – In this type of writing, the technical writers are required to write insurance, sales, purchase details of both private and government organizations. This documentation is either kept as a backup or used as a detailed document to be sent to higher management for verification or reference.
· Medical writing – in this type of writing, the technical writers are expected to write documents related to medical researches and studies. If a technical writer is going for medical writing, basic knowledge related to medicine would be essential to have meaningful writing.
· Software and hardware documentation – as the name indicate, in this type of writing the technical writer is expected to write the technical manual for new software and hardware or need to update the existing manual due to the latest updates for software and hardware. This technical manual can also be used as a user guide for installation, emergency support when an issue arises while using the software or hardware.
Technical Writing Training Online Courses
Despite having a good knowledge of how this form of writing works, usually short-term technical writing training from a good training institute is generally recommended as it would improve the knowledge towards precision. At present time people usually go towards online mode training. This part of the article would give you the list of institutes that comes in the list of best online technical training providers. Along with training, these institutes also provide placement support anytime.
Headquartered in Delhi, IIM Skills is one of the leading institutions offering the best technical writing training. With the specialized content developed by the industry experts, they provide you in-depth knowledge about technical writing strategies. Interactive classrooms, practical training, and lifetime access feature make it the top-notch course provider. Moreover, post successful completion of the course, you receive international certification. For more information, visit IIM Skills.
Being recognized by the Government of India, this center provides one of the best technical writing training online coaching. This institute provides an interactive session along with exposure to live projects. Post completion of the course a certificate would be provided with the result of the assessment. Founded by Mr. Saket Kumar Singh, this team consists of well-experienced members. For further details please visit their website.
It is one of the top online platforms providing online technical writing training. Subjects being taught by experts Coursera gives detailed coaching. This course structure includes recorded sessions, assignments, and forums for discussion. Once the training has been completed, an E-certificate would be provided. To know more about Coursera please visit their website.
Founded in May 2010, Udemy is a huge online course provider for many subjects. They have also made their name in providing technical writing training. The contents are designed in such a way that it is very useful for beginners. They would be having a recorded session along with a user guide. To know more about Udemy, please visit their website.
This is a leading online coaching provider from the UK. Having more than 20 years of experience in teaching, this institute is always making its position one of the top institutes. This institute has very sound experience in technical writing training. Along with online teaching, they also provide face-to-face interaction or teaching if required. To know more about Emphasis, please visit their website.
Google’s free technical writing
Google also comes on the list for providing technical writing training. These are mainly aimed at professional software engineers, computer science students, project managers, and similar roles. Having two types one for basic and intermediate, google provides a different method of learning. To know more about Google technical writing training, please visit their website.
Common errors made while writing
Errors are commonly observed when a person is upgrading his knowledge and skills. Some mistakes can be avoided easily in the early stage. The below list shows some of the identified mistakes which are commonly made. If these types of errors are explained by the technical writing training institute while providing training, then this would help the aspirant writer to be aware of the possible mistakes.
· Poorly defined topic – if the topic is not explained properly in the whole document, then the documentation is not of any use. One should make sure they are going to explain the topic very clearly and it should be complete.
· Lengthy sentences – the sentence used must not be very lengthy, as it might become boring at some time. One needs to keep in mind the time spent by an individual on the document. It must not be too time-consuming.
· Improper page layout—the appearance of the document is a matter of concern. If the appearance is not welcoming, then no one gets the interest to read the document. One has to ensure the page is properly layered out. All the words in proper font and font size.
· Less content – Inadequate content is not valid as it might lead to many doubts left unanswered from the user end. If this condition occurs, then no one would recommend the product and the technical writer.
· The varying tone of writing – the tone of writing should always be pleasing. The tone should not move from pleasing to ignorance.