Learn Fundamentals Of Technical Writing In 7 Minutes
Organizations have jumped on the ‘content’ bandwagon, investing time, effort, and money to deliver high-quality content to their target audiences. Technical writers are not limited to the sphere of technology; they also work in other spheres of advertising and academia, to name a few.
While it is a well-known field in the west, it is gaining traction in India and is supposed to expand in the future. In this article, we’ll explore and get familiar with the six principles that make up the fundamentals of technical writing.
What is technical writing?
As technological advances in warfare and telecommunications became faster sometime around World War I, modern allusions to technical writing and technical communications as a career began to emerge. Even though many people associate technical writing with creating computer and software manuals, it can be used in any profession regardless of where complex ideas and processes are needed for communication.
In common parlance, technical writing aims to simplify complex knowledge by communicating complex information to others to accomplish the task. Because two people or groups are participating in the conversation, technical writing might be called transactional writing and, the purpose of one side is to enlighten or persuade the other. In every way, this is real-world writing.
Technical writers are in demand as our dependence on technology for solutions and innovation increases. Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning have boosted demand for such content in recent years. Technical writing is no longer an optional aspect of organizations but rather is seen as a requirement and is becoming more widely recognized as a viable career option. Furthermore, Internet availability and accessibility have only increased the demand for technical writing.
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Benefits of technical writing
The fundamentals of technical writing will help you understand what you need to know and consider before you begin writing. Since the job entails describing complex concepts in simple and concise terms, you are expected to be well-versed about the subject you’re writing about. Alternatively, be open to learning more about it.
You start to develop a greater sense of user empathy when you write technical documents, which enables you to pay more attention to how a product’s readers or consumers feel rather than what you think. Technical writers are always on the lookout for new ways to improve their craft.
However, reviewing the fundamentals of technical writing will serve as an excellent springboard for further exploration of particular areas of interest and documentation. Contributing to organizations like Twilio, Stack Overflow, and Smashing Magazine will help you make money as a technical writer. In addition, you can participate in paid open-source programs like Outreachy alongside contributing to Open Source communities.
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You may also choose to pursue technical writing as a full-time career; many businesses need someone with those skills. Just a bitsy percentage of technical writing is intended for the general public and, expertise is an essential component for completing technical writing tasks.
Businesses use technical writing for diverse purposes, including explaining internal procedures, selling products and services to other companies, or defining a policy to name a few. The target may be anything from using a software application to running industrial machinery, evaluating a medical condition, and so on.
So what distinguishes technical writing from other types of writing? In terms of purpose and style, there are significant differences. Technical writing is purely utilitarian and aims to disseminate knowledge. Clear communication, precision, comprehensiveness, accessibility, conciseness, writing style, and reliability are all factors that determine the quality of technical writing.
If you’re interested in technical writing, keep reading. Let’s get started with the fundamentals of technical writing.
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These principles serve as the fundamentals of technical writing.
1. Writing concisely
In a technical document, the user experience is just as critical as it is anywhere else on the web. Keep in mind how the technical document serves the audience’s interests; determine who they are and what they need. It’s all too easy to overlook the reader’s intended use of the document. When you write, take a step back and look at the text as if you were the one reading it.
Consider this: What would your readers make of it? When are they going to use it? Is it easy to use? The aim is to write a document that is both useful and practical for your audience. To write down with clarity and conciseness, replace long phrases with one or two words. Using unfamiliar words and writing sentences that are too long, according to experts, are two ways we lose our readers.
By avoiding wordy phrases and streamlining sentences to eliminate redundant wordage, you are doing your readers a favor. As a consequence, being able to write succinctly is an essential part of the fundamentals of technical writing.
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2. Grammar usage
You’ll be requested to write technical documents in standard English as a technical writer. Because of incorrect grammar usage, there is a chance that knowledge will get misinterpreted. Although grammatical errors can seem obvious, they are not always easy to spot (especially in lengthy documents). Remember before clicking ‘publish,’ double-check your spelling.
Here are some grammar rules to adhere to:
· Subject-verb agreement is easy to follow but becomes a challenge when the subject is not that obvious. So keep an eye out for that.
· Memorize the list of singular pronouns and the list of plural pronouns. Note: some pronouns can be both singular and plural (Some, most, all, none).
Grammarly and the Hemingway app are two free apps you can use to search for grammar and spelling mistakes. You may also give anyone a copy of your article to proofread before publishing it. Hence, the use of proper grammar is unquestionably an essential feature in the fundamentals of technical writing.
3. Standard punctuation
Punctuation seems to be one of the most underappreciated aspects of good writing. Most writing workshops dismiss it as common knowledge and instead concentrate on teaching more advanced topics. When it comes to comprehending and interpreting the written text, punctuation is a game-changer. For example, Let’s use this sentence as an example of punctuation.
Woman without her man is nothing.
Format 1: Woman, without her man, is nothing.
Format 2: Woman! Without her, man is nothing.
Both of these claims are grammatically accurate, but their meanings are very different. When it comes to the fundamentals of technical writing, it’s no surprise that punctuation is a must-have.
Following are some consistent guidelines to follow when punctuating your sentences.
· Comma Rules
o Place a comma before the subject if it is not the first word/words in the sentence to clearly distinguish it from the introductory word.
o Never use a single comma between the subject and verb of a sentence; instead, use two commas (like brackets) or no commas at all.
o When listing a sequence of three or more items, use commas to distinguish them.
o Place a comma before the coordinating conjunction to separate individual clauses.
o Commas can be used to signify thought shift. Non-essential elements such as words and phrases come after the comma.
· Semicolon Rule
o When a comma isn’t powerful enough to connect concepts, use semicolons.
· Colon Rule
o Introduce amplification with a colon, such as with an illustration, description, quote, summary, or list.
4. Active Voice
Use active voice in writing as it is easier to read and understand in comparison to passive voice. The active voice implies that the subject is the one actively performing the verb’s activity, and in the passive voice sentence, the subject is the recipient of verb action.
Although individuals prefer to communicate in the active voice, technical writers frequently use the passive voice while writing technical content. One of the many reasons to use active voice in technical writing is that it more closely mimics how people recall and absorb information. Compare these sentences:
Social Involvement Programme (SIP) hours are calculated by teachers at the end of each semester.
Teachers calculate Social Involvement Programme (SIP) hours at the end of each semester.
In the active voice statement, the subject takes action, whereas, in the passive voice statement, the subject is more of a recipient. So, the use of active voice is an essential part of the fundamentals of technical writing.
5. Using positive statements
Words have both positive and negative connotations, as we all know. The general tone of written communications creates an obstacle when the reader interprets the message to be negative. Use optimistic language and focus on what’s achievable to prevent a negative tone; assist your audience to consider the negative as an opportunity.
Technical writers should use positive language when issuing directives and make use of positive modalities for written communication. Telling the readers what not to do is indeed a negative assertion. Notice the distinction between don’t be afraid to ask questions and feel free to ask questions.
Your readers will need to consider what is true (positive) to decide what is not true (negative). However, when a negative statement is more evident than a positive one, this rule does not apply. Thus, the use of positive assertions is an essential thing for the fundamentals of technical writing.
6. Avoiding long sentences
It is necessary not to get stuck in a rut of writing never-ending sentences. Long sentences are more difficult to understand. As a result, concise sentences are preferable in technical writing. Make use of an active verb (shows the action of the verb in a sentence) if you’re asking your readers to execute multiple actions.
While splitting long sentences into bullet points, remember to make sure that the action verbs in each bulleted sentence are in the same tense. Try to break complex sentences into short, complete sentences without getting your thoughts fragmented all over the written content. As a result, avoiding complex sentences is another important principle that is part of the fundamentals of technical writing.
Technical writing courses and Forums
Several institutes provide paid technical writing courses. You can also take advantage of some of the free technical writing courses available, such as the Google Technical Writing Course and the Hashnode Technical Writing Bootcamp. Coursera’s technical writing tutorials are also worth a look. It’s beneficial to be a part of a community or forum with others who share your interests.
Other writers in the community can provide you with feedback, corrections, and even give pieces of advice to improve your writing skills. If interested, you can participate in communities or forums such as Write the Docs Forum and Hashnode, to mention a few.
Sites to publish the Articles
Here are a few good platforms where you can start putting up technical content for free once you’ve decided to take up technical writing. It will assist you in developing an enticing portfolio for potential companies to review.
Because of its vast community and audience, FreeCodeCamp is an excellent place to post your content. You must, however, apply to write for their publication as well as provide some previous writing samples.
If your application is not accepted, you can try again once you have improved your skills. If you receive the acceptance to write, they will examine and edit your articles before they go live, ensuring that you publish the best possible piece of content. They will also post your articles on social media to get more people to read them.
It is a free content creation platform that provides developers with everything necessary to start blogging. Setting up a blog on Hashnode is simple and takes little time. It offers good features like custom domain mapping and a vibrant online community. Users can take up challenges similar to #2Articles1Week Challenge that will help with continuous improvement and maintain consistency in writing.
Hackernoon is a platform of over 7,000 writers with approximately 200,000 daily readers. It helps writers to proofread their articles before they are published on the website, ensuring that they are free of frequent errors. Worth checking out.
Medium, Scoop.it, and LinkedIn Articles are some of the other similar free publishing platforms accessible to writers.
Technical writing may be a good career choice for you if you have a knack for writing and technology. To be a successful technical writer, you need a good mix of writing and technical prowess. The role of writing and technical skills vary based on your job title, employer, the product you’re writing about, and the type of document you’re writing.
In terms of content research, creation, and distribution, a lot has changed in this domain of technical writing in the last few years. As a result, organizations are beginning to establish integrated technical communications to handle the information that needs conveyance.
There is no necessity for a degree to begin writing technical content. While establishing your portfolio and acquiring practical experience, you can start blogging on your blog and public GitHub repositories. A skilled writer is always working on improving their skills. Good writers, of course, are ardent readers. Your writing will undoubtedly improve if you review widely read technical content.
Start writing, that’s all there is to it. Writing, like any other skill, is one I believe can be learned.