Are you a new technical writer looking to enhance your skills and impress your readers? You’re at the right place! In this blog post, we’ve discussed 13 expert tips for new technical writers to help them sound smarter and more professional in their writing. From research and reviewing to mastering grammar, we’ve got you covered. Don’t miss out on these useful strategies to take your technical writing to the next level!
Note: These observations are based on my direct experience unless otherwise noted.
- Don’t generalize. But if you do, admit you’re generalizing. “This may be a generalization, but I’ve noticed…” You’ll command respect from people who are careful about how they communicate. Technical people tend to be careful about how they communicate (of course, I’m generalizing :-)).
- If you’re speaking of facts, be able to cite facts. If you’re speaking of rumors as if they’re facts? Don’t. There’s enough gossip and innuendo in the world. It will not make you sound smart.
- If you’re speaking of your experience, try to say so. “In my experience,” or “I’ve noticed” or “My impression has been” Try to avoid expressing spontaneous, random opinions unless you’re trying to be funny. (See next item on humor!)
- Humor? You may be misunderstood. Be very careful about humor. (I tend to keep my mouth shut for the first few weeks to get a feel for a company’s culture, including humor.)
- Never, never presume. The presumption is the kryptonite of technical writing. Start to presume, and you’ll be taken less seriously.
- If you don’t know, say you’ll look into it. Then investigate it. “I’m not certain, but I’ll look into it and let you know.” (Research is a vital part of technical writing.)
- Don’t say stupid things. Things you know are factually untrue.
(Go to a bar and listen. You’ll find many stupid things said.)
- Be direct by using indirection.
(It’s impolite to say, “You’re wrong.” But you can say, “I believe that’s an incorrect statement.”)
- Never respond with pique or small-mindedness to rude or immature people. (I used to tell my kids to imagine rude classmates were “throwing up on themselves.”)
- Don’t be hypocritical or use double standards.
If you’re accustomed to seeing people solely in categories or tribes, you’re bound to express bias in some unfortunate fashion. How much worse will this be if you believe yourself to be tolerant, accepting, and kind?
(Your colleagues may not buy your self-image!)
- Don’t be a “nativist” to speakers of English as a foreign language.
(They typically speak more languages than you! Remember Joseph Conrad and Vladmir Nabokov, two of the greatest writers of the 20th century, did not speak English natively.)
- When reviewing others’ work, lead with empathy. Start with the positives, even when there are few positives to note. Imagine you’re relating to your clone. How would you like your clone to feel? Especially: Don’t play power games when reviewing to soothe your hurt ego. (There’s typically someone better than you out there.)
- Always strive to be consistent, concise, and straightforward. This is whether you’re writing a document, responding to an email, or typing a chat. Don’t accept typos because you’re in a hurry.
By implementing these 13 expert tips for new technical writers, you can take your technical writing skills to the next level and impress your readers with professionalism and credibility. Remember to keep your language clear and concise, avoid jargon, and pay attention to research, grammar, and formatting. With practice and dedication, you’ll soon be writing confidently and sounding like a pro!