Azumuta specializes in the elaboration and standardization of procedures. Therefore, many technical documents pass us by. Before our customers use our tool, we often familiarize ourselves with their current working practices in drafting work instructions. We often experience problems in the preparation of technical work instructions. Companies struggle with the writing of such documents. These need to be closely monitored, as inefficiencies can lead to errors in your procedures and affect the overall quality of work.
Based on our experience in helping businesses create technical documents, we have compiled a list of five typical technical writing mistakes that you should avoid in your business.
#1 Complex Phrases with Articles
The reader should learn something from a technical text, so it’s important to communicate as clearly as possible. Avoid information that can be interpreted in different ways. Get to the point as quickly as possible, avoid articles and keep your sentences short but meaningful. Big metaphors and descriptive sentences have no place in a technical text, as they distract from the actual message.
A clear writing style is achieved by reading the text several times. Try to cut out all unnecessary information, and think about every word you use. Does a particular term add to the comprehensibility of the text, or does it make your story more obscure? Technical writing is about making choices, with creativity giving way to clarity.
Using “a”, “an”, “the” articles in technical manuals will give e signal to the reader’s brain that a noun is about to appear. The reader feels as if his head is skipping a beat when you omit articles. This is basically because sentences without articles seem strange and our brains have to work harder to figure out what should have been there. After all, we are not robots.
#2 Using Industry Jargon
People who know a subject inside and out use industry terminology. The advantage of this jargon? It is very clear to those who know it, such as technical writers of a specific industry. It also allows professionals to communicate with each other in a concise manner.
Unfortunately, using jargon also has a major disadvantage, especially when used in an instruction manual: those who do not know the jargon can not decipher your message. Or they may have to try too hard and drop out. In both cases, your message is compromised.
So explain the jargon when you use it in a text for a mixed audience. Or better yet, use common words that everyone understands. Choose words that everyone understands and that sound natural in technical documents. Formal words and jargon make your procedures hard to digest.
#3 Avoiding Visuals with different Steps
Technical writing can have the disadvantage of making the topic dry and boring. This has to do with the fact that you are writing short, concise sentences that are mainly meant to convey factual information. You make these texts much more lively by occasionally giving an example or supporting them with pictures. This way, you loosen up the long sections of text a bit and you immediately have a way to make your story concrete.
There are several ways to give examples in your text. For example, you can use pictures or videos to make the story more vivid. Are you trying to explain to readers how to assemble a bicycle? Use screenshots or a template to clarify your story. Is your goal to make certain instructions easy to understand? Then icons are an indispensable tool for you. Of course, you can also use words to break up the text, for example by summarizing information in a list.
Take this example from a Tech Writing Handbook:
“Pay special attention to the installation of the pedal: It is important to identify the right pedal from the left one, and to know that the left pedal is reverse threaded. Follow the instructions below to make sure to not strip your threads.”
It is unlikely that most workers will read until the end of this sentence. Although this type of sentence makes sense to the writer, readers prefer bulleted lists with symbols and signs to distinguish between steps:
1.1 Grab a male bike frame
1.2 Drive the center screws into the frame
1.3 Attach the cable holders to the bottom of the frame
1.4 Lock in the rear wheel bolt
1.5 Attach the front wheel bolt to the fork
1.6 Slot the fork in the frame
1.7 Attach the gear protection plates to the bottom of the frame
1.8 Prepare the frame to move it to the next workstation
1.9 Clean the bike frame
#4 Forget to Mention the ‘How’
When you write a technical text, you are usually addressing a very specific audience. Maybe you are writing for people in a specific field, or maybe you need to explain a complicated concept to newbies. Regardless of the target audience, it’s always important to get to know them well and explain clearly “how” something needs to be done. This way you will know exactly what the reader already knows and what terms and concepts you need to explain in the text. Conversely, employees know how to perform an action.
Is the text intended for a specific audience? Then look up how people from this field share their knowledge and experience. In this way you will immediately pick up the most important terms and you will know which terms are common within this field. In the process, you will discover how to place certain lingo in the right context so that you can write a text that perfectly matches your target audience.
#5 Lack of experience
Technical writing is a complicated job. After all, you have to find the perfect balance between clear steps, visuals, and copy. Give yourself time and you will automatically develop more experience in technical writing. After all, you need technical knowledge and attention to detail during drafting. Have you mastered these skills and completed the above steps? Then you can start on your technical text.
And remember, adapt the text to the knowledge level of your target audience. Next, it’s important to keep the text simple. Stick to the essential information and present it as clearly as possible. One way of doing this is by using examples, such as visual support. In this way, you will succeed in presenting even the most technical story in a beautiful form!
Work instructions built in Azumuta give operators exactly what they need to do the job right, the first time. Images and video’s, templates and machine integrations make it easy.