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One Writer’s Take on the Process of Technical Writing

2nd April 2011 Posted in Blog, Documentation, Planning 0 Comments
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What can technical writers teach and learn from others? Plenty, it seems. Will Kelly is a technical writer who maintains a technical writing blog in his spare time.

In a March 13, 2011 post, he described his process for writing technical documents. For those looking for ways to improve their writing or begin to assess their technical writing team, this can provide a simple outline of how the writing work can be managed.

This is the outline that he follows, depending on the final product he needs to create:

  • Conduct a documentation audit
  • Develop a documentation framework
  • Create document outline (s)
  • Write documents
  • Review documents
  • Revise documents
  • Publish document(s)
  • Maintain document(s)

In reviewing this system, you can see how the technical writing process is more complicated than many believe it to be. Not only do you need to create a new document, but you also need to review what’s come before and see what applies in the present.

The Importance of a Documentation Audit

Conducting the documentation audit is one of the most important steps in this process. Looking at the previous documentation to see what’s available will help a technical writer see what else they can do for the audience. Though the documentation may not be out of date, updating the documentation requires looking for ways to provide improvement.

Assessing Goals

The framework for the new documentation will begin with assessing the goals of the document. If the document is to inform a certain audience, a certain outline and structure will be necessary. With a consistent framework, the writer only needs to follow the format in order to complete the document.

The Nitty Gritty of Documentation

Writing, reviewing, revising, and maintaining the technical writing documents is generally where most people focus their attention, but these are not the main tasks for a technical writer. In fact, audits and frameworks help drive the rest of the writing process.

What’s your technical writing process and how does it differ from Kelly’s? Do you believe that having a formal process in place is helpful? Please leave a comment and share your thoughts.

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