Structure and Technical Writing
No matter what a technical writing piece may be trying to convey, structure matters.
Not only will structure allow the reader to effectively skim the piece for needed information, but providing a consistent structure, such as including the same sections in each article or user guide allows for congruency among documents. With increased congruency comes increased usability and that’s the goal, isn’t it?
One Way to Format
Depending on the business in which technical writing is used, there can be a number of different formatting options. The easiest way to structure a paper or user guide is to divide the text into different sections.
- Title – The title of the document should be clear and concise, allowing a reader to easily understand what the document covers.
- Description – A description at the start of the piece allows a reader to get a quick grasp on what’s covered, in a bit more detail than the title provides alone as well as describe a machine, process, or other subject matter.
- Functions – Creating a list of functions of this machine or process allows a reader to understand whether they can use what’s being described or if they need to seek out an alternative.
- Issues/Warnings/Hazards – If there are any hazards associated with the process or item, the reader will learn them here. Hazards should be clearly described so the user can prepare for and understand the risks involve as well as choose the proper course of action during the process.
- Conclusion – The conclusion allows a reader to review a summary of the document to ensure they have received the necessary information. In this conclusion, the main points of the document should be briefly described. A conclusion is especially useful in longer, more technical pieces in order to solidify the user’s comprehension.
While you might use different sections in your structure, using a well-defined, consistent and logical structure in assembling documents not only helps users, but it helps those who might be assigned the task of editing or appending the materials in the future.
Creating a structured template for technical writing deliverables can help when creating all types of technical documentation. While many templates may be necessary to handle all of your technical writing needs, templates serve to create user-friendly documents with consistent structure.