Technical Writing

Posted 14 January 2011 by

Technical writing is the art, craft, practice, or problem of translating that which is logical into that which is grammatical. (Technical Writing, Guide ID: A425431, H2G2, BBC, retrieved 12 January 2011)

As are all other types of writing, technical writing is an art. It differs from much other writing because it conveys technical information in an understandable, direct way for the reader to take action. One of the closest relatives to technical writing is journalism.

The technical writer prepares content, as defined in the documentation plan, for storage, distribution, localization, and reuse. While writing about technical information, technical writing is not necessarily filled with technical jargon. It changes technical information into words targeted for those users specified in the documentation plan.

Writing stages

Prepare the documentation plan

Working with the other stakeholders, the documentation plan guides and defines content creation. Proper planning prevents poor performance.

Different projects require differing levels of documentation for the plan. In some cases, the project manager may define the plan for the writer. Other cases require the writer to produce a plan for formal approval from all stakeholders.

A plan may include the following, or more, based on the needs of the project:

  • Intended audience of the content
  • Purpose of the content
  • Included and excluded content
  • Content organization (table of contents)
  • Subject matter experts availability
  • Vocabulary list, style guides, references
  • Tools needed to produce content
  • Existing content and resources
  • Editing resources
  • Legal review
  • Content delivery form and process
  • Review and approval process
  • Project milestones
  • Publishing content
  • Possible future content uses not in current project
  • Content revision and retirement process (lifecycle)

This plan undergoes developmental editing and project approval.

Prepare the first draft

With a plan, the writer completes the first draft. This can involve the following:

  • Interviewing the subject matter experts
  • Research any related documentation on the subject
  • Verify process and procedures

When complete, this content undergoes a substantive edit.

Prepare the second draft

Addressing the concerns from the substantive edit, prepare a new draft. While undergoing further edit and review, the preparation of this draft is as if for publication.

Depending on the documentation plan:

  • Submit the content for legal review. Then, incorporate revisions from the legal review, and submit the updated draft with the legal review for the copy edit.
  • Submit the content for the copy edit.

Prepare a publication version

Depending on informal agreement and the documentation plan, the writer may incorporate changes from the copy edit or the copy editor may make them. If the writer makes the changes, submit the content back to the copy editor for verification.

With copy edit approval, publish the content. This could be loading a PDF file in a content management system or sending the approved content to someone for publishing. The documentation plan defines how to publish the content.

Revisions

There is no such thing as a final version of the content. There is a current version of the content, subject to revision.

As such the documentation plan may call for the writer’s involvement in revising and retiring the content at a later date.

Contact Possession Sound Technical Communications, LLC, to find out about writing services.

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