10 Tips for Successful Technical Communication

by Kimberly Buchanan

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Technical communication has been described as a process that allows little to no margin for error; a process that comes in all shapes and sizes, and one that can cause panic in the lives of people accustomed to working alone.

While technical communication work can be challenging, it’s really no different from any other form of communication – all it takes is proper planning.

Here’s a 10-Point Checklist for delivering successful technical communication.

 

  1. SCHEDULE A KICK-OFF MEETING

Technical communication projects require a proper kick-off meeting. The meeting should include everyone involved in executing the project, as well as those people who will make final approvals as you move along.  The goal is to walk away knowing the specific role of each person and the overall goal(s) of the communication. Be sure to send a follow-up email to outline decisions made during the meeting.

 

  1. GET TO KNOW YOUR END USER

Who’s your end user? What information do they currently have and what additional information do you need to provide? What types of technical communication are they accustomed to? After they receive your information, what are they expected to do with it?

 

  1. OUTLINE THE DELIVERABLES

Technical communication can come in a variety of formats. There’s printed information, websites, e-books, PDF downloads, online forums, etc. The list goes on. Knowing the end deliverable(s) will help you adapt your writing style to the selected format(s).

 

  1. CREATE A TIMELINE

Develop a timeline to help ensure you, as well as everyone involved with the project, remain on schedule. This is especially helpful if you need to rely on SMEs (Subject Matter Experts) for technical information.

 

  1. MAKE IT CLEAR

Fail to explain instructions clearly in a user manual, and your readers can waste hours of time and effort. Write a technical letter containing a grammatical blunder, and you damage an organization’s credibility. Create a vaguely worded policy, and an organization is exposed to a lawsuit. These are all very real examples that illustrate  why you should convey complex information in simple, but direct sentences that your end user can easily understand.

 

  1. BE CONCISE

Resist the urge to write too much. Use a minimum of words to express ideas, which will help reduce the chance of readers skimming over pertinent information.

 

  1. IS IT COHERENT?

When possible, break up text with headlines, charts or other graphics that draw the eye. This helps your end user follow the information and get a better idea of how it should be used.

 

  1. IS IT APPROPRIATE?

Technical communication requires you to be appropriate to its purpose and the audience. Getting too fancy with wording, or over-using technical jargon, can sometimes alter your message.  Most companies have a style guide you can follow.

 

  1. GET A SECOND EYE

Field-test your communication with actual end users. If you are providing instructions, ask your reviewers to walk through each step and provide feedback to you. Remember, your job is to convey complex information that is easy to understand.

 

  1. READ AND READ AGAIN

Be sure to catch those embarrassing errors before they’re in print. This can be something as small as a comma or as large as a typo in the company name. It sounds pretty basic – but it happens – and we wouldn’t want it to happen to you.