What do you want your readers to know? The answer to this question will help you in establishing your primary purpose. If the readers need to know how to use a product, you have to provide instructions for using the product. If you want them to understand a complex theory, you must provide detailed explanation. Thus, the two common goals you want to achieve in a technical document are as follows:
- To explain/inform – You need to inform about an upcoming product or explain a complex theory. Or, the reader might need to know about all the features in the application. Any attempt to persuade the end user within the purview of technical documentation also falls under this goal. However, if you want to persuade the reader and influence his buying decisions, you can consider copywriting method and not technical writing. Hence, proposals and brochures fall in the thin line that exists between technical writing and copywriting.
- To instruct – You need to provide steps to accomplish a task. There might be many sub-tasks and you need to detail the procedure to complete all these sub-tasks. Or, the reader might need the procedure to perform a new feature or functionality in the product.
Identifying the communication goal
To identify one of the above goals, you need to understand the broad picture of the current assignment. To understand this, you must know the needs of the assignment. The assignment needs fall into one of these categories.
- End user documentation – If you are preparing end user documentation for hardware or software, you must have a mix of both the aforesaid goals. Whether the product is complicated or not, you need to explain the features and then provide the detailed instructions to perform the functionality of these features.
- Training materials or Tutorials Your primary goal is to train the end users by explaining in detail all the features or concepts. Hence, the focus is to explain is more in this case.
- Press releases or Release notes Your goal, again, should be to inform the users about a new product launch or a release notes specifying the updates made the existing product.
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