Technical communication

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Technical communication is a method of researching and creating information about technical processes or products directed to an audience through media.

Technical communication jobs involve mostly the following occupations:

  • Technical writer
  • Technical editor
  • Technical illustrator
  • Information architect
  • Usability expert
  • User interface designer
  • User experience designer
  • Technical trainer
  • Technical translator
  • API Writer

The most commonly used form of technical communication is technical writing. Examples of technical writing include: project proposals, technical manuals, and users' guides etc.

The technical writing process can be divided into five steps:

  • Determine purpose and audience;
  • Collect information (from documents and subject matter experts (SME));
  • Organize and outline information;
  • Write the first draft;
  • Revise and edit final result;

Determining purpose and audience

The identification of the audience affects many aspects of communication, from word selection and graphics usage to style and organization. A non-technical audience might not understand, or worse, not even read a document that is heavy with jargon, while a technical audience might crave extra detail because it is critical for their work. Busy audiences do not have time.

Collecting information

Information may be collected through primary research, where the technical communicator conducts research first-hand, and secondary research, where work published by another person is used as an information source. The technical communicator must acknowledge all sources used to produce his work.

Organizing and outlining information

Once each idea is organized, the writer can then organize the document as a whole.

This can be accomplished in various ways:

  • Chronological: This is used for documents that involve a linear process, such as a step-by-step guide describing how to accomplish something.
  • Parts of an object: Used for documents which describe the parts of an object, such as a graphic showing the parts of a computer (keyboard, monitor, mouse, etc.).
  • Simple to Complex (or vice versa): Starts with the easy-to-understand ideas, and gradually goes deeper into complex ideas.
  • Specific to General: Starts with many ideas, and then organizes the ideas into sub-categories.
  • General to Specific: Starts with a few categories of ideas, and then goes deeper.

Once the whole document is organized, it's a good idea to create a final outline, which will show all the ideas in an easy-to-understand document. Creating an outline makes the entire writing process much easier and will save the author time.

Writing the first draft

After the outline is completed, the next step is to write the first draft. The goal is to write down ideas from the outline as quickly as possible. Setting aside blocks of one hour or more, in a place free of distractions, will help the writer maintain a flow.

Revising and editing

Once the initial draft is laid out, editing and revising can be done to fine-tune the draft into a final copy.

Four tasks transform the early draft into its final form:

  • Adjusting and reorganizing content
  • Editing for style
  • Editing for grammar
  • Editing for context

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