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3 Ways to Adapt Documentation to Today’s Reader

10th August 2010 Posted in Blog, Communication, Documentation 0 Comments
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Technical writing isn’t considered by most to be an art form, but more of a way to communicate certain pieces of information as efficiently as possible (which, in a way, is an art form in itself). Documentation that remains static over the years can get a little flat, if not outright stale.

When you’re writing a manual or just a memo to others, you might want to think about whether the writing has gotten into a rut. If it has, not only is the audience reading it going to be bored, but they might skip over vital information as a result of assuming you’re presenting information in a particular way.

There are a number of ways in which technical writing can be amped up to be more effective, but also more exciting for today’s readers. Even if the content is far from exciting.

Whether you hire a new technical writer or use the original writer to revamp the information, you’ll want to look for ideas that will allow:

  1. Arrange information in a pleasing manner – While looks shouldn’t count for everything, they do still count. Using lists and smaller paragraphs will help make information easier to digest.
  2. Rethink the order – If the presentation of information doesn’t really work in its current hierarchy, change it up to make it more logical. This can help create an interest in readers who may have tired of the old presentation or who were unable to find what they were looking for without a lot of aggravation.
  3. Provide a fresh outlook and perspective – Over the past few years, we’ve become accustomed to absorbing information in small bites. A perfect example of this is the 140-word character limit in Twitter. You want information to be clear and concise and not to result in tedium when read. Maybe it’s time to add some interesting graphics, charts, or in the case of online documentation, some engaging videos.

Embracing change is a good thing, especially when it comes to documentation that is getting stale or worse yet, getting ignored. By taking a fresh approach with today’s reader in mind, you can make information more readable, easier to digest and more relevant without leaving out important details. 

What are your thoughts on making documentation more readable for today’s audience? Please leave a comment.

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