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Say Less, Offer More in Technical Writing 

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It’s common to find technical documents that are more than a few hundred pages.  That alone can cause a reader to step away, quickly, from the document.  While there are cases when more details are necessary, some technical writers have stopped worrying about the reader and about how bloated texts can lead to confusion.  With more concise writing methods, technical writing becomes more brief, but no less effective or accurate.

To help create the most concise technical document:

  • Avoid extra words – If you include extra words, you’re not adding value to a technical document.  Include only the words and details that are relevant to the user’s needs.
  • Consider your audience – When an audience already has a certain level of experience, they don’t need to hear the beginner information.
  • Use simple words – Though there are places where longer words are needed, when a simpler word can be used, it should be used.
  • Don’t repeat yourself – While it’s tempting to say that you’re referring back to another section, either reference that with the section number or don’t reference it at all.  The idea is that the reader will have already read that prior section, so referencing it again is redundant.

Some might call this ability to say less and offer more: brevity with clarity.  Say what you mean and only what you mean, keeping the reader in mind, and avoiding unnecessarily complicated words.  Your reader deserves technical writing that gets to the point.

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4 Comments

  1. By Kell Condonon 12th, July 2012 at 3:28 pm

    Brevity and clarity are definition of a good requirement, but I’ve found peer reviews to be the best way to ensure that you always present the best possible output to a client. Luckily, we have some really talented writers here. Writing in a community is the best, most enjoyable way to grow as a writer.

  2. By editoron 16th, July 2012 at 3:36 pm

    Thanks for the comment, Kell. Yes, peer reviews are helpful when you have other talented writers available, which leaves the lone writer to fend for him or herself.

  3. By Niñaon 20th, July 2015 at 7:40 am

    SehunEditor what do you mean by peer review and subject matter feedback??

  4. By WAI_editoron 20th, July 2015 at 7:55 am

    Peer review – having your materials looked over by another technical writer in your group, for example, for a fresh set of eyes from another writer’s perspective. Subject matter expert feedback meaning the person(s) designated as the subject matter experts for this product, etc. review the material for technical accuracy.

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