A new year means you get the chance to do things over, to do things better. Whether you’ve been happy with your technical writing team or you think things should improve, it’s time to look back on the past year to see what needs to improve and what needs to be removed from your company for the year ahead. Here are some ideas to get you thinking.
Update Your Software
If you’re still using the old versions of your software, it may be time for an upgrade. When you use old software, you produce possibly dated and unprofessional looking results and you don’t get to take advantage of new or enhanced features. Plus, you may be leaving yourself or your company exposed to security risks.
Look at the software you are using and ask the technical writers when they last updated. If it’s been more than a year, it might be time for a new piece of software or at least an upgrade, where available. Talking with the people who actually use the software often will help you to assess what you actually need and what can wait until a new budget period.
Update Your Standards
Yes, even technical writing styles need to change from year to year. It’s a good idea to start by evaluating the standards you have in place and see whether they might be improved. Again, talking to senior technical writers on your team can help you begin to see what needs to be changed and what might not.
For example, if you have a standard about when to use boldface print and it’s just too distracting, then you might want to look into changing that. Additionally, AP recently updated its style guide for website as a single, non-capitalized word. Times change. Usage changes.
Start a New Testing System
At the same time, you need to be aware of the end users too since they are the ones that will be using the final technical writing products. By creating a new testing system that will help you find out whether a program or guide works or not, you will have a safeguard in place to ensure that only effective and accurate technical writing will make it to the users. In the same vein, if you don’t have a formal peer review process in place for your writers, the new year could be a great time to develop and implement one.
The new year is a great time to start fresh, and that includes your technical writing. Time to break some bad habits, pick up some good habits, and hopefully make sure your improvements last beyond February, unlike most other resolutions that barely make it through the month.
What are some of your technical writing team’s resolutions for 2011 or resolutions you’re planning as a tech writing freelancer? We’d love to hear them – leave a comment!