This attempts to outline some basic principles for effective technical writing. How to communicate practical knowledge about a complex subject and break it down into understandable chunks.
- Technical documents are hardly ever written alone.
- Ask the experts.
- Put yourself in the readers place, write appropriately for your intended audience.
- Use real world examples that your audience will understand.
- Use plain readily understood words.
- Use words with unambiguous meanings.
- Be concise, cut out redundant words.
- Use precise terminology.
- Avoid jargon.
- Avoid acronyms.
- Use short sentences 15 to 25 words on average.
- One sentence per idea.
- Break the text up, one concept per paragraph.
- Use plenty white space in between the sentences.
- Use the active voice.
- Do not use adverbs aka weasel and peacock words.
- Avoid making nouns from verbs.
- Try to balance comprehensive coverage without overwhelming with too much information.
- Use a consistent familiar style.
- Must be true, references are useful to validate the text.
- Put important information first.
- Be logical and sequential. Have no gaps in the logic and all steps should make sense to one another.
- Make no assumptions the user will know or understand something, unless this is a prerequisite from all users.
- Divide into sections and subsections.
- First explain the simple aspects then go into more detail about the complex facets.
- Use ordered lists for your step-by-step procedure writing.
- Use parallel constructed lists.
- Use tables.
- Use flow charts to illustrate decision making processes.
- Use images with descriptions and place them adjacent to the text.
- Use links to connect related topics and sections.
- Test that the writing is understood as intended and rewrite until it is.
- ^ a b What are the features of technical writing?, Quora, 2017
- ^ What are the principles to apply in (web based) technical writing to effectively impart practical knowledge about the subject? answer by Ugur Akinci, Quora, 21 Jan 2020
- ^ Technical writing is different from causal writing. It involves certain basic techniques. Is this true? answer by Bradley Nice, Quora, 20 Jan 2018
- ^ What are the principles of technical writing?, answer by Andrea Mock, Quora, 4 September 2016
- Letting Go of the Words: Web Content that Works by Ginny Redish, Morgan Kaufmann, 2007, ASIN B005NZ5K0W
- Every Page is Page One by Mark Baker, XML Press, 2013, ISBN 1937434281
- Heathkit manuals, Archive.org