Technical content creation is done in a series of steps. First conduct research, and determine the purpose and the audience. Next, compile information and organize it into a readable draft, before beginning the review process. The draft creation is the most important step of the technical writing process.
Never start writing at once. So you have collected all the information, and it is a huge jumble. Break it into smaller chunks by assembling related information together.
Commit your ideas to paper and plan the outline of the document. You may change the outline good number of times in the early stages rather than making changes in the finished document. Ask a peer to review the outline. It always helps to have a peer review the outline, as they view it from a different angle and find any problem areas that you might have missed. This outline will most probably become the table of contents of the document.
As you write, refer to the outline at all times. Even better, form sentences for each topic listed in the outline. The flow of the document is in the form of sections. Each section will have a heading, some sub-headings and content for the sub-headings. Each section contains one or many paragraphs, but never contains only a single sentence. Follow the format of essay-writing in each section: introduction, body and conclusion. Introduction tells the audience what to expect in the section. The body describes the information in detail and the conclusion summarizes the main points of the information. It helps to start with the easier topics from the outline. It also helps to write quickly and keeping the topics together. Keep a separate copy of the working document and add the completed topics, as in the flow of the outline. There will be less overhead of organizing the contents later.
Sometimes a sub review is conducted, by the writer or a peer, before completion. This is not generally advised, as the writer would lose focus of the writing. Hence, the review process is done after the writing process is complete. Once, most of the writing is complete, check the draft thoroughly. Check for the flow decided during the outline process. Check for grammatical errors and technical content consistency. This will help further tweak the document to completion. A style guide helps a lot during this tweaking process. It is used extensively during the writing process as well, since it guides the writer through the complexities of grammar and punctuations.
Technical writing, unlike casual writing, has to follow rules regarding structure, composition and design. It has to be always remembered that the document is written for another person than oneself. Follow the golden rules of writing: to be clear, concise, compact. Smaller sentences avoid redundancy. Bulleted and numbered lists get rid of long, drawn paragraphs as well as keep the audience’s focus on the subject. Finally, always remember to use a spell checker. It is a taboo, as a writer, to have spelling mistakes in your document. It not only makes the review process difficult, but is also a dent in the effort you put in to create the document.
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