Six Simple Steps To Clearer Technical Writing

Effective technical writing is taking complex information and putting it into simple language that all your audiences are able to understand. Many of us who write technical documentation often get caught up in the content, forgetting about our target audiences. In the end, we end up with a document that few people are able to understand.

There are a few simple steps that you should keep in the back of you mind when creating technical documentation. By following these simple steps, you have a much better chance of ending up with a document that readers can understand.

  1. Write in an active voice
    • Write in an active voice, not a passive voice
    • In an active voice, the subject of the sentence performs the action; in a passive voice, the subject is the recipient of the action.
    • Subject – verb – object
    • Passive verbs are longwinded; make sentences sound “wordy”
    • Passive sentences usually include a form of the verb “to be”, such as, “am”, “is”, “was”, “were”, “are” and “been”
    • Use Spelling & Grammar feature of Word to track your use of passive voice
  2. Use familiar words
    • Use familiar words instead of complex words
    • Complex words are also referred to as technical jargon
  3. Keep sentences short
    • 15 – 20 words per sentence
    • Break long, complex sentences into shorter, simple sentences
    • Eliminate unnecessary words (filler words) to reduce sentence lengths
  4. Avoid wordiness
    • Avoid using redundant words and phrases
    • Use concise words instead of wordy phrases
  5. Use bulleted/numbered lists
    • Use bulleted lists to create separation between similar ideas
    • Use numbered lists for steps and sequences
    • Limits the number of items in a list (six to eight)
    • Properly introduce each list with a complete or incomplete sentence
  6. Define acronyms
    • Spell out each acronym on first use

[tags]technical writing, writing how to[/tags]