Photo by: Camille Orgel on Unsplash
The world of writing typically has three areas: literary, academic, and technical. Our first exposure to writing is usually literary. As a child in school, the teacher asked us to write a story or poem about what we did over the summer. We were asked to be descriptive, use imaginative language, and make our story come to life. In high school and into college or university, we were required to produce academic works such as essays, articles, critical papers, and biographies. When writing academic papers, we were often told to meet a word requirement. As a result, we became conditioned to take 5000 words to say something that might only take 500 words.
Our first exposure to technical writing is usually in the workplace. As part of our jobs we are asked to write procedures, reports, and proposals. Technical writing has different characteristics and a different purpose when compared to literary or academic writing.
These ten tips are important to keep in mind when writing technical content like training materials:
1. Use a simple format to speed up reading and avoid confusion for the learner.
2. Number the instructional points to provide flow and order to the document.
3. Provide explanatory notes where required to help eliminate confusion and provide clarity for the learner.
4. Use meaningful instructional graphics, rather than cosmetic graphics, to reduce “clutter” in the document.
5. Structure subject-matter in a logical manner to speed up reading and aid in retention.
6. Use a clear, concise, and consistent layout to increase learner comfort and familiarity.
7. Create technical documents that can be used on the job whenever possible. These job aids will support job performance.
8. Use an interactive structure where possible. Structure content in worksheets, flowcharts, decision tables, etc. to provide interaction between the learner and the material.
9. Use an attractive appearance. Learners will more likely use a technical document that is visually appealing.
10. Use thought-provoking questions and statements where possible to help engage the learner and encourage them to think about the material.
It is important to realize when writing technical documents, we are not writing novels. Our job is to convey job related knowledge and skill using fewer words and the least amount of reading possible. Following these ten tips will help you create meaningful, relevant, and effective training materials.
Have you attended or checked out our Instructional Design for New Designers, Advanced Instructional Design, or Writing Skills for Trainers workshops? These workshops can assist you with the development of your course materials or your technical writing skills.
What practices have you found successful in writing technical content or developing your training materials? Please share. I’d love to hear your thoughts!