Length: 2 Days
Learn skills and techniques to create professional technical documents.
Day two is practical: writing for the web, followed by short and long document techniques. The lab exercises reinforce the concepts taught, many with useful templates to use in the field.
WHAT YOU’LL LEARN
After completing this course, participants will have the ability to demonstrate:
• The ability to develop and use a technical brief including audience profiling, success criteria (like this) and defining the scope of a technical writing project
• The development and use of consistent styles to formulate an identifiable brand including content development, useful consistent formatting, navigable structure and meaningful headings
• The identification of appropriate levels of grammatical correctness suitable for the audiences of a technical document
• The differences between writing for print and writing for the web including making web site content compelling, navigable and suitable for speed-readers, structured in ways that assist readers to locate the information they seek
• The ability to apply technical writing techniques to shorter documents including forms, brochures, checklists, and policy and procedure documents, to name a few
• The ability to apply technical writing techniques to longer documents including academic theses, course manuals and textbooks and identify the similarities and differences between the different types of long documents presented
Day 1: The Theoretical Day
Module 1: Getting Started
Getting started is often the single most difficult aspect of a writing assignment. This module sets out to provide guidance on how to get started and many of the decisions you will face as you go along.
The discussion starts by looking at the key decisions required including (perhaps most importantly) the purpose of the document.
Identifying the personnel who will be part of the project is important, even if the team consists of one—you!
Techniques and methodologies for researching and collating results are all useful especially when you are not the subject matter expert and have to rely on others within the team for information.
The discussion concludes by looking at the technical brief, essentially a specifications document, and the criteria used to determine success and failure of the project. In reality, this whole module is about the technical brief and builds the arguments for each section of the brief through the module.
The lab for this module provides experience in developing the technical brief.
Module 2: Structure and Style
This module looks at the mechanics of technical writing and covers a number of topics.
Most (if not all) technical writing assignments start with an outline of some sort, this topic looks at outlines, how to create and use them as well as where they are useful in the final document.
Abstracts are short descriptions of a technical document and every technical document must have one. This section justifies that claim and explores how and where to use abstracts.
Many writers believe that content development is the hardest part of the technical writing project, but it is in fact the easiest. This topic looks at techniques to apply when building content into technical documents. Paragraph and sentence structures are closely aligned to this providing some practical guidelines on content development.
Summaries are the opposite of abstracts—they typically go at the end. Well-written summaries are essential to long documents or technical writing that provides arguments for or against a particular topic or proposal.
This module covers various referencing techniques including cross-references, indexes, tables of contents and other forms of references with guidance on where they are most appropriate.
The module concludes with advice on formatting to enhance communication including headings and graphics.
The lab for this module looks at sub-editing a course manual to provide experience in the topics covered within it.
Module 3: Grammar
As a technical writer, it is your job to communicate and knowing English language rules comes with the territory. This module provides a basic refresher on English grammar and punctuation to avoid some of the more common grammatical faux pas that might affect your communication with the reader.
The module starts by looking at punctuation, closely followed by sentence structure. The emphasis here is to ensure your sentences are meaningful and have impact.
Allied to sentence structure, the module moves on to discuss verb tense and verb-agreement, both of which are commonly confused—in fact, often using correct grammar just sounds wrong. The concepts of active and passive voice are introduced with practical examples of when we should use passive voice.
The module finishes up by looking at parts of speech (the building blocks of sentences) and commonly confused words—that will help improve communication.
The lab for this module provides opportunity to implement many of these rules in a proofreading exercise using a [fictitious] course manual.
Day 2—The Practical Day
Module 4: Writing for the Web
Writing for the web is a different skill to writing for print— people read web pages differently to the way they read printed material. This module looks at the techniques to apply when writing copy for the web.
The module starts by looking at the content you will be writing, how it is different (yet similar) to print.
Making web content more user-friendly, including for those with disabilities, is likely to boost its acceptance with your readers, thus making it more successful; the section looks at techniques to apply and provides some guidance on usability.
The design of your web site has synergy to printed material but its consumption is different, so this module provides guidance on its design and structure without making you an expert in HTML.
Consumers of web site material (readers) are different from those reading printed material, the module goes on to look at the psychology of the web site reader and how you should structure your content, pages and site to your advantage.
Finally, the module finishes up with guidance on making your web site search-engine friendly with suggestions and tips to help boost its ranking in the results delivered for queries pertaining to your content.
The lab associated with this module provides opportunity to put some of these skills into practice by sub-editing a [fictitious] web site.
Module 5: Short Document Techniques
This module examines techniques specific to shorter documents with guidance on making them more compelling to consumers.
The first type of short document discussed is forms. These short documents solicit information from users when consumed.
The module moves on to look at what techniques apply to checklists including the rationale behind constructing them.
Several related short document types follow—procedure documents, policy documents, fault documentation, change documentation and specification documents.
The module concludes by looking at brochures and other marketing materials and the technical writing techniques that apply to them.
The lab for this module looks at building the enterprise compendium of forms, brochures, and policy and procedure documents, to name a few.
Module 6: Long Document Techniques
This module discusses techniques to apply when presented with longer documents, if they differ from techniques on other document types.
The module starts by looking at what attributes make a document long, followed by a discussion on the merits of master and sub-documents.
Various long document types are examined, such as academic theses, textbooks and course manuals. These long documents are representative of long document types a technical writer may encounter.