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Getting Technical: Priority – Facts or Writing?

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It makes sense that when you’re writing a technical document that you need to get the facts right. If the user can’t use the handbook or manual, that can spell trouble and it can be dangerous. But does the writing matter at all? Other blogs have already talked about this topic and it seems that the discussion is one without a clear answer.

Just the Facts, Ma’am?

What’s interesting about the quote, ‘Just the facts,’ is that Joe actually didn’t ever utter it as Friday on Dragnet. But it’s been repeated enough in popular culture that everyone assumes that he said it. He didn’t.

What does this have to do with technical writing? When you’re creating a document, you need to focus on the facts first, to be certain. But when your writing isn’t accurate, that can mangle the facts and cause a reader to interpret what you’re writing in a different way than you meant.

Imagine what would happen if you talked about turning a brown knob on the blue widget, without talking about the way the knob should turn. That could spell disaster for a company or a user.

So What’s the Answer?

So the answer as to whether it’s more important to focus on the facts or the writing is: yes. You need to think about both. You can’t simply list the facts and assume that the reader will understand them. You need to first have the right facts and then present them in a way that appeals to the reader and that allows them to follow them precisely.

The priority may be the technical aspect, but it’s not the whole story.

So what are your thoughts. What’s more important to get right in technical writing? The facts, or the writing? Please comment.

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