Do you believe your technical writing skills have room for improvement? Read on to learn how to improve your technical writing skills.
Technical writing is a term with a couple of meanings. First, there is the profession; a technical writer is someone who translates complex information into writing that anyone can understand.
Imagine a person reading through NASA’s launch data and describing it in language that a toddler could grasp. The second meaning of “technical writing” refers to the mechanics of writing.
Things like sentence structure, grammatical issues, and punctuation are all technical writing matters. We’ll talk a little bit about both meanings in this article.
If you’re looking to improve your technical writing skills, read on to brush up on a few things.
Brush Up On Your Technical Writing Skills
Technical writing is more a matter of developing a critical eye than it is knowing specific rules. Sure, understanding the fundamentals of grammar and punctuation are essential, but you can supplement fragmented knowledge with a manual of style or two.
In fact, it’s recommended that you look at dictionaries or something like the Chicago Manual of Style if you feel like there are specific issues in writing that you don’t understand.
Because there are so many different areas of writing, it would be impossible for us to give you the full scope of ways to improve. That said, there are a few things that we can suggest.
Edit the Work of Friends or Colleagues
If you’re interested in improving your own writing skills, look over the work of someone you know. Using a critical eye, try and identify any errors present in the page.
Get really nit-picky and try to open your eyes to issues you haven’t thought about before. Things like the consistency of tense, confusion of terms, and unusual punctuation situations are all things to go after.
The way that this improves your writing is that it opens your eyes to issues that you probably don’t have answers for. People tend to write in ways that they generally understand, so your own writing won’t expose too many questions to you.
On the other hand, reading another person’s writing will throw things at you that you would never get from your own writing. You’ll likely come across a sentence and think “that doesn’t look right,” only to look it up in a manual and find that you were thinking incorrectly.
This is great! It’s always a constructive thing when you are proven wrong in the world of writing. It means you now have an area to improve.
Have Others Review Your Writing
Just as you have a more critical eye when it comes to the writing of others, they can give the same value to your work. Having a friend look over your writing will allow them to improve while exposing common errors or issues to you.
Again, we don’t always see the fault in our own work, which is why we need an honest friend or two to kick us into shape.
Practice Translating Information
This is specific to those who want to improve their technical writing in the professional sense.
That said, a lot of the technical issues that writers face come when they try to get too fancy. Being as concise and direct as possible is typically the best way to go, and translating complex information into simple information is an exercise in concision.
Go through your stuffiest science textbook and pick a chapter that seems interesting to you. Try to go through, paragraph by paragraph, and translate the information into words that your 11-year-old niece could understand.
Doing this will help you to wrap your head around the idea of being concise and providing a legitimate service to people. Employers always need people who can translate what they do to their customer base, through words or writing.
Additionally, doing this will improve your creative efforts. You can think of the science textbook as a metaphor for the wild, beautiful ideas in your head. You’re just improving on your skill of translating those ideas into words.
A lot of what writing is is taking something big and putting it into the packaging of words. We make mistakes when we try to make that packaging too fancy.
Keep an Eye Out for Consistency
When you start to get really technical, everything is important. The page margins, the font, and size of the chapter titles, whether or not the annotations are italicized, and kerning between letters are just a few such things.
Not that you need to be on the lookout for discrepancies in minute details all of the time, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to develop the skill. The idea is to be able to notice when something looks off and make the correction.
One possible exercise is to grab the closest children’s book you can find and make a style guide. A style guide is essentially what a writer would look at if they were crafting a text that needed to fit a certain mold.
Things like font, spelling variations, margins, spacing, and more are all common within style guides.
Go through the children’s book and take note of what the author did consistently. You can jot these things down in your guide. Additionally, make columns for each letter of the alphabet.
Each time you notice an interesting spelling, a word that is unusually capitalized, or a name that’s commonly mentioned, put that word into the column of your style guide.
Get into as much detail as you can. Once you’re finished with the children’s book, take a break and read a book of your choice. You’ll probably find that your eyes are more tuned to look for discrepancies than they once were.
After that, read your own writing with a fresh set of eyes.
Want to Improve Your Writing More?
Hopefully, this article gave you a few tools to improve the quality of your technical writing skills.
There are a lot of elements to writing, though, and sometimes we need a little help. Visit our site for more tips on improving your writing every day.