Technical writing may seem very easy for seasoned writers. But for those who are just starting out, you have to get rid of these mindsets: “everyone knows that” and “the user can figure it out.” It is important that what you write is complete. Doing this will satisfy your readers’ curiosity. Read on for some tips on how to create comprehensive and informational technical writing articles that will satisfy your readers.
Technical writing tip no. 1: get rid of “everyone knows that” attitude
When you are involved here, do not make an assumption that your reader knows everything. Making assumptions about the knowledge of your readers can cause grief to them. Those who are curious enough would have to check other sources to understand the topic of your technical writing. Meanwhile, those who do not have the luxury of time would be left hanging in the air; they would have no idea of what you are talking about. Worse, they would misunderstand the message that you wanted to convey. Here’s an example of “everyone knows that” the some writers would omit while typing their technical writing piece:
Tomatoes. Most people store them in the refrigerator. However, doing this would ruin their taste. It would also make the tomatoes less nutritious. Instead of putting them on the fridge, tomatoes should be stored at room temperature at the kitchen counter, until they are cut. Once cut, then that should be the time to put them in the refrigerator.
Not everyone is aware of this. Therefore, instead of removing these information from the article, the better thing to do is to type it out, taking care to rewrite the words to make them more appealing to the readers.
Another common mistake of writers is not to write the obvious. Just because something is obvious does not mean that every one knows about it. For instance, if your topic about technical writing is about how to properly turn off an electric barbecue grill. Most people know how to do that, but what about other persons who do not read the “How to Use” manual or those that are new to using a barbecue grill? Also, while everyone probably knows how to shut it off, there is a proper and safe way to do that, which many people would probably are unaware. Your technical writing article should not omit the said information.
Another example of assuming that the readers know about it is this: how to use a two-in-one shampoo and hair conditioner. Here’s how an expert should put it: Usually, the hair is shampooed first, rinsed, and then conditioner is applied. When shampooing, massage the shampoo into the scalp. Rinse immediately when done. Next, massage the conditioner into the hair. Let the conditioner remain for about two minutes. But if it is a two-in-one product, massage the shampoo-and-conditioner into the hair and then rinse quickly.
Do all users know this? Some would doubt whether to leave the product for a while or to rinse immediately. If you have the “everyone knows that” attitude, you will tend to leave out this material from your technical writing piece.
So, what should you do? When in doubt, assume that the readers do not have knowledge of what you are talking about. Include even what seemed like trivial information in your piece.
Technical writing tip no. 2: get rid of “the user can figure it out” attitude
The user is not reading a mystery novel or a fictional literature where the writer lets him think about what’s going to happen next. It is a writing piece, which means it should be informative, easy to read, and can be finished in a few minutes.
When users read about how to use your product, all the possible information should be provided. Users purchase products because they have needs to meet and therefore, information on how to use your product, or how your product will address their needs should be easily accessible.
Here’s one example: The technical writing article tells you to call the customer service hotline for inquiries. However, no phone number was provided. Here, you would need to find the phone number on your own.
A great article does not let the readers figure out the information. Some information may seem like very insignificant, or can be easily accessible on Google but then, some readers do not have the time to search for information that should have been included in the material that there are reading in the first place. It takes only a few minutes to write down basic information about your product. Do not forget to write them down.
What to do now?
To avoid these technical writing blunders, when writing something, the intended reader should be placed in mind. By doing this, you can place yourself in the shoes of the reader and avoid assuming what the readers knows or does not know. If you cannot find yourself in the person of the reader, find someone who is like your intended audience.
Once the intended reader is identified, determine what this reader wants to know. Doing this will help you avoid situations where you will let the reader figure out what you are talking about. Go, write your technical writing piece and keep these tips in mind.