Accurate and well-written documentation is part of the customer support strategy and reduces support costs. Technical writing is much more than technical jargon and concise instructions. Our audience is made up of humans and not just technical personnel. Technical writing requires the writer to present a main point or thesis, maintain focus, organize and develop ideas, and use the appropriate style for the audience. The following are the basic principles of technical writing.
Five basic questions – who, why, what, how and when – apply in various situations to develop the content of any type of document. For example, imagine a situation where you have to create a report based on your balance sheet. Before creating a report, you can plan the content of your report by applying the following key questions to the situation:
o Who would like to read the report?
o Why do you want or need to submit a report?
o What will this report present to the hearing?
o How will the report be presented?
o When will the report be presented?
• The writing situation: audience and purpose
Before beginning any writing task, the writer analyzes the audience and identifies the purpose of the document. The writer asks the following questions about the audience:
o Who will read the document?
o What are your prejudices?
o What are the ethical responsibilities of the technical writer in communicating this to the audience?
Regarding purpose, technical writers ask: what should this document accomplish? What should I do? Should:
o Analysis / Criticism
Writers use an organizing pattern to give their writing consistency. The organizational pattern provides continuity to the document so that the audience can understand the ideas. For example, writers can organize their ideas chronologically, spatially, and categorically.
Writers change their style according to the audience. A person would not write an email to a close friend in the same style as a formal memo to a manager. Writers adopt formal or informal styles, depending on the writing situation.
• Accessibility and specificity
Accessibility refers to the ease with which the audience can obtain the information they need from a document. The table of contents, headers, footers, page numbers, headers, and subtitles help make your document more accessible to your intended audiences.
• Conventional grammar and mechanics
Writers adhere to the rules of conventional grammar and mechanics. Technical writers essentially review and edit the document to detect and correct errors in graphics, typography, and layout.