Technical Writing for Copywriters
Copyblogger recently featured a post by Nick Chowdry titled, “Clueless About Technical Writing? Get Started With These Essential Tips.” In the post, Chowdry offers tips for copywriters who may be faced with their first technical writing assignment.
Chowdry’s tips are on the mark and include:
- Getting to the point quickly (terseness is a virtue)
- Simplify your language (look for simpler words that mean the same thing)
- Keep structure in mind (he suggests an inverted pyramid)
- Use layout to your advantage (lists, of course, but consider using a professional designer for layout?)
We think one important tip Chowdry left out is to use graphics or images to help convey your message. Yes, he touches on it, but pictures, diagrams, screen captures, etc. are worth a thousand words when it comes to technical writing. Sure, he mentions inforgraphics, but most infographics are designed to stand on their own. So many product guides today are nothing more than a sheet of illustrated steps with no text. The added benefit is that this makes translation/localization a whole lot easier, if not totally unnecessary. But if that was the desired deliverable, it’s more likely an assignment for an illustrator than a writer.
Another point left unmentioned is to consider your audience. Technical publications need to be suited for the level of technical knowledge of the reader or user. Maybe that was too obvious to mention, since all writing needs to be tailored its target audience.
All in all, Chowdry’s post contains some valuable – if not common sense – tips. We think design concerns are largely driven by the publishing medium, the length of the piece and any client design requirements in place.
What are your thoughts? If you are a technical writer, what advice would you give a copywriter when facing his or her first technical writing assignment? Please leave a comment.