Copywriting and editing
Text is the central component of most support documents. It usually carries the bulk of the information content because of its ability to convey complex ideas with a precision greater than any other medium.
Because of this, the text is often the single most important component of a document, and its quality can have a major effect on the ability of the document to perform its task.
The overall style can influence the reader’s ability to understand and retain that information.
Technical writing is not a simple process and involves a complex combination of skills. It is writing for a purpose and, to be effective, writers must think carefully about the aim of the document, what it’s audience will be and the circumstances in which it will be read.
The aim, above all, is to communicate, and this factor must sometimes override the writer’s own personal preferences and personality. In a sense, the writer is an actor who must be able to project themselves into the role of expert teacher. Although they may make use of many props, this fact must not be revealed to the audience.
How Technical Is Technical?
One question that arises (and is, incidentally, a hot topic among technical writers when they get together) is: How much technical knowledge is necessary to write technical documents?
The answer to this is that it depends on the nature of the document and the level of reader that it is aimed at. Particularly with product documentation, manuals and user guides are often for beginners, or will at least assume the lowest level of technical expertise.
Under these circumstances, a writer with a detailed knowledge of the subject can be operating at a disadvantage. It can sometimes be very difficult to see where others may have problems grasping an idea that you are familiar with. In contrast, an inexperienced writer’s “beginners mind” can often see where the difficulties lie, and this can help them to ask the right questions and decide which concepts need expansion and clarification.
The other end of this is when the document produced for expert readers. Experts in a particular field expect to be addressed by one of their peers, and if the writer isn’t an expert they will quickly become aware of it. In-depth knowledge of the subtleties of highly technical subjects is difficult to fake.
In these cases, there is a distinct advantage in making use of the services of an expert writer, assuming that one can be found.
If not, the requirement is for the writer to have enough technical knowledge to be able to understand the subject, combined with an ability to communicate with the general reader. Gaps in knowledge are filled by a Subject Matter Expert (SME), who is prepared to work closely with the writer during the production process. We have done this on many occasions, and the combination of our communication skills with the SME’s deep knowledge of the subject has produced excellent results.