Technical writing: another approach | Average

What is Technical Writing

Technical writing is a great field to get involved in if you’re a good writer and enjoy researching and explaining complex things. As someone who has spent years teaching, this industry is a perfect fit for me. The hardest part of technical writing is learning about new technologies and writing about them in a way that the average user can understand clearly. From the tools I use to my process of conducting research and editing, this article gives you tips and tricks that might help you better understand technical writing and gives you resources to help you on your technical writing journey. .

  • Overview
  • Writing process
  • Resources and tools

Technical writing is described as a discipline that revolves around the simplification of the complex. It’s about breaking down complex information so that the target audience can easily understand it.

Technical writing is a conglomeration of different types of technical communications. Technical writers collaborate with various stakeholders to produce simplified, easy-to-understand documentation. Technical writers create various types of documentation, including reference guides, white papers, product documentation, frequently asked questions (FAQs), process flows, policy documentation, documentation on APIs, user manuals, etc.

Beyond understanding the content at hand, one of the hardest parts of being a technical writer is finding the best writing process. Writing for yourself and your needs is easier than writing to meet the needs of others. Through trial and error, I have found an approach that works best for me and my needs while simultaneously working in conjunction with the requirements of my clients and their target audience.

When it comes to writing technical documentation, a strategic approach is required. A high-level overview of my writing process is as follows:

  • Phase 1: Understand the target audience – before I even start researching a topic, I paint a picture of the person I want to read my writing. Although mostly used for design purposes, I’m building a user character around my target audience that answers the following questions: Who are they? What are their needs ? What do they want to know? How much do they already know? How can I help fill the information gap? Once I understand who I am writing to, I have a better understanding of the types of information they may need and how best to provide that information.
  • Phase 2: Research themes — I use social media to see the latest trends regarding the subject I am writing about. I find accounts that match my user persona and explore the issues they care about or talk about. I regularly follow large companies and organizations, noting the topics and concepts they cover.
  • Phase 3: Brainstorm ideas – once I understand the essence of the subject, I dive into the 5 W (Who, What, When, Where, Why). These 5 questions give me the right foundations to better understand the subject. Not every subject will need to respond to the 5 Ws, but it does give you a starting point to conduct further research.
  • Phase 4: Organize ideas — Now that I’ve done some general research and established the basics of what I’m going to dig deeper into, I’m starting to write the documentation. I start by grouping relevant ideas, which allows me to make the flow of information more fluid.
  • Phase 5: Research Ideas — Once my draft is organized, I return to Google to continue my research. Instead of focusing on general ideas as I did in Phases 2 and 3, I am now looking for specific information that helps support those ideas.
  • Phase 6: Data collection — in this phase, I use Google and other research methods to collect information that supports the ideas I am presenting. This may include using case studies and conducting interviews with SMEs.
  • Phase 7: Development of ideas — during this phase, I flesh out the data I have found by breaking down complex concepts and finding graphs or other information to support the data.
  • Stage 8: Editing — during this phase, I use software like Grammarly and a speech-to-text converter to detect issues with grammar, syntax, and content organization.
  • Phase 9: SEO Optimization – there are so many things involved when talking about SEO, but the three main things I focus on before posting the technical documentation are SEO title, SEO description, and tags. The SEO title is used in place of your title on search engine results pages. SEO titles between 40 and 50 characters with frequently searched words have the best click-through rates. The SEO description is used instead of your subtitle on search engine results pages. You should use keywords, summarize documentation, and use between 140 and 156 characters for SEO-optimized descriptions.
  • Phase 10: Publish/Submit the essay — Depending on the context, this is the phase where I submit the documentation to the right stakeholders or publish the documentation on different platforms. This phase may include sharing articles on social media to increase reach and exposure.

The resources and tools listed below are just a few that I have come across that have helped me on my technical writing journey.

  • Google Technical Writing Course – according to Google, their technical writing course is a “collection of courses and learning resources aimed at improving your technical documentation”. This was one of the first resources I encountered when I became interested in technical writing.
  • The Society for Technical Communication — This professional association is dedicated to the advancement of technical communication and is the largest organization of technical writers. This organization provides resources, certifications, conferences, and allows you to connect with other technical writers.
  • Youtube – is also a great resource for finding tutorials and how-to tips for technical writing tips and tricks.
  • Google Analytics – is a web analytics service that helps users identify trends and patterns in how visitors interact with their websites. It enables data collection, analysis, monitoring, visualization, reporting, and integration with other applications. Google Analytics can be useful when collecting information about your target audience.
  • SEO analysis — is a method of collecting and analyzing data to better understand the organic performance of your website.
  • Grammar — an editorial assistant who can proofread and edit documents. You can download the app or install the plugin and use its features on social media platforms, your messaging app, and even your phone. Every document I write goes through Grammarly; I swear.
  • Microsoft Visio — is a flowchart maker and diagramming software that helps users visualize data related to business process flows. Users can create flowcharts, data flow diagrams, process flow diagrams, 3D maps, etc.

The resources and tools section of this article reflects only a small percentage of what you have to become a better technical writer. It’s not exhaustive, and there are other great tools you can use to help you on your own technical writing journey. There is no “right” or “wrong” way to write documentation unless it is filled with grammatical errors, syntax errors, and poor organization of content. What works perfectly for me could be detrimental to you and your progress. You can use my process as a basis for establishing yours. Whatever route you choose, remember, friends, do or don’t; there is no try. Good learning!