Technical Writing: Will They Get It?

womanTyping250Strictly speaking, the purpose of technical writing is to provide technical information in a totally objective way. This type of technical writing is frequently written for professionals in a specific field who already  “speak the language,” and understand the general concepts. So what may look like unintelligible “jargon” to the non-technical reader may well be a timesaving “insider language” for the technical reader in that specific field.

It is important to make the distinction between this type of technical writing, and a second type – the type of technical writing most of us will most often be called upon to write: technical writing that is, by most (short) definitions, good business writing dealing with technical information.

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Write Faster – Communicate Better!

We are all so very busy, and now we have the holidays coming up, and want some time to enjoy them!ThinkingWoman170

More than ever, holiday time is time to keep those lines of communication open. Not only with friends and family, but especially on the job with our customers and clients. Where are we going to find the time? Let’s begin by taking less time to communicate effectively.

So how can we write faster – and communicate better?

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while now, you know that I have a very definite bias in this area. Here it is: To write faster, you have to begin by knowing what you’re talking about! And then…

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Published in: on November 5, 2013 at 11:54 am  Leave a Comment  
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More About the Business Writing Trend: Short!

Last week, we said that “short” is not what we really want, when we are looking for clearer, faster communication; when we want the reader to “get it” and to act on it now.TwoBusinessPeople175

What we are looking for is “concise.” “Short” can cause you a lot of problems, cost you more time, and result in lost productivity. You need to anticipate the questions you must answer for your reader before he or she can do what you are asking him or her to do. “Concise” – providing the information your reader needs, in as short a space as possible – greatly increases the odds that you will get what you need at all, and probably much sooner.

The second part of this is to make your writing faster and easier to read.

We already talked about alternate formats, cover letters, and whether to pass along this information at all. See last week’s post here.

Here are three more things you can do:

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Business Writing Tip of the Week: How to Say It When You Can’t Think of What to Say

How many times have you or I sat, staring at a blank computer screen, waiting for inspiration to strike? How many times have we wished there were such a thing as a business writing fairy godmother – or at the very least, a ghostwriter, who could come along and give us a fill-in-the-blanks draft to get us started?

Soon it becomes apparent that inspiration is on vacation, and we’re going to have to handle it on our own.womanTyping250

Let’s say that your email is the type of email you write all the time. And the question becomes just how many ways can you say the same thing? So it can often be helpful to use a sort of template for the same sorts of pieces, and many companies and organizations do just that.

The downside of course is that these form letters tend to sound much the same, and are usually, of necessity, quite impersonal.

Especially from a tonal point of view, these impersonal form letters can be quite destructive to a relationship that we have worked so hard to develop with each individual reader. Obviously, it is far preferable to write most of our correspondence directly for that specific individual reader. Templates, or “form letters” are not for everyone, nor are they for every situation.

On the other hand, when carefully crafted, and especially when they are of the “save as and fill-in-the-blanks” type, they can be quite useful. Just “save as,” fill in the blanks, and you’re done!

Let’s see, for example, how this might look for a very simple standard meeting announcement:

“The (date/topic) meeting of the (name) committee will be held (at/in the) (location) (at/from) (time) on (day and date). Please see attached agenda for details.”

This simple “save as and fill-in-the-blanks” template might become something like:

“The April meeting of the waste reduction committee will be held in the third-floor conference room from 4 to 5 PM on Thursday, April 24, 2013. Please see attached agenda for details.”

The RSVP request will be your second paragraph, which could also be a “saafitb” paragraph.

Be sure that the attached agenda details include who will be responsible for each report, or presentation agenda item, so the responsible person will be prepared.  It’s also a good idea to send a quick reminder email to each of these individuals. You may even have a system that does this automatically.

You probably have a number of standard emails you create on a regular basis. Try developing your own “save as and fill-in-the-blanks” templates for these sorts of emails, and see if it makes the process easier and faster.

More complex repetitious communications will require a more complex format, but the principle is the same: You want to avoid as much repetitious key stroking as you reasonably can, using the “blanks-to-be-filled-in” to provide both the specific information for the piece you are writing, and to personalize this information for your specific reader. This will go a long way toward avoiding the impersonal “form letter” tone, while speeding up the process.

For example, a persuasive proposal should begin with a persuasive “lead” paragraph clearly summarizing exactly what the proposal is, and stressing the benefit to the reader, or to his or her company or organization. Quick tip: Increase the effectiveness of your proposal by starting with the benefit.

As appropriate, other sections of the persuasive proposal could include, for example:

• Significance of your proposal. Why do? Why need? Why now?

• Proposed time schedule.

• Resources required/Resources available.

• Changes that will be needed.

• Similar programs/activities. Review and evaluate how, and how well they worked. How were they the same, and how did they differ?

• Projected positive results, with time frame and evaluation criteria.

• Anything else your reader needs to know to decide in your favor.

And finally, you will have a very strong, very clear, very persuasive conclusion to the material covered, in benefits-to-the-reader terms.

 

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Published in: on June 24, 2013 at 11:13 am  Leave a Comment  
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Good writing, or just good rewriting?

“There is no such thing as good writing, only good rewriting.” –Louis D. Brandeis.

I don’t believe that there isn’t good writing, but much of what makes a piece of writing good is the effort put into revising and rewriting it. However, many times, people agonize over trying to say things perfectly while writing a rough draft, and they get so caught up in perfectly articulating one sentence that they lose momentum and the rest of the draft suffers for it. Remember to see the forest through the trees! Just get something written down on paper, and then revise, revise, revise.

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Published in: on January 15, 2010 at 8:16 pm  Leave a Comment  
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