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Templates for Medical and Technical Writing?

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Technical writing and medical writing require information that’s thoughtful and precise, which is why many technical and medical writers are concerned that templates may restrict their writing.

If we stop to think about the way we live our lives, we’ll recognize that we tend to live 95% by habit. That is to say that most of what we do is something we do out of habit instead of out of a conscious decision. This is not a bad thing because it allows us to make the most of our time and it allows us to create the ideal circumstances in which we can do what we need to do, often without thinking about it. In some ways, templates allow us to produce without thinking.

The Case for Templates

Templates, like habits, make things easier. When they don’t have to think about layout or formatting, technical and medical writers can focus more on content than structure, which is consistent by following the structure used in previous examples. This speeds up the process and is helpful in cases when the document simply needs to be updated or the information needs to follow certain protocols.

In some cases, templates may even include ‘boilerplate’ text – such as disclaimers and copyright notices. It would be tough to argue that templates don’t save time and promote consistency in those cases.

The Case Against Templates

But templates are limited as they only answer certain questions. If there are other questions that come up for a reader, then a template may not be appropriate. A technical or medical writer should always be considering the ‘what else’ of a technical document. If things aren’t addressed, then they should be added, regardless of what the document template says to include.

The Verdict

The simple answer to the question of whether templates are helpful in technical and medical writing is ‘sometimes.’ While there might be opportunities to save time and money by following templates, if the information and user-friendliness suffers, then it’s time to think outside the template box. The best approach is to apply the template, but don’t allow it put you in a straight jacket.

What are your thoughts on templates for use in the medical and technical writing professions? Please leave a comment.

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