What will I learn in the Technical Writing Certification Course?
Successful technical writing is not the product of inspiration, nor is it merely the spoken word converted to text; it results from knowing how to structure information using text and design to achieve an intended purpose for a clearly defined audience. In this course, you will learn best practices to ensure your technical writing will succeed by following these steps:
As you learn the five steps, understand they are interrelated and often overlap. The time required for each step varies with different technical writing tasks. The five steps expand, contract, and must be repeated to fit the technical writing task’s complexity or context.
Dividing the technical writing process into steps is especially useful for collaborative writing. You typically divide work among team members, keep track of a project, and save time by not duplicating effort.
Step One: Preparation
Technical writing, like most professional tasks, requires solid preparation. In this course, you will learn to accomplish the following four major tasks in preparation for technical writing:
- Establish your purpose.
- Assess your audience (or readers) and provide context to clarify the purpose of the document.
- Determine the scope of your coverage.
- Select the appropriate medium.
Establishing Your Purpose. To establish your primary purpose, you will learn to ask yourself what you want your readers to know, to believe, or to be able to do after they have finished reading what you have written.
Assessing Your Audience and Context. The next task you will learn is to assess your audience by asking:
- Who is my reader?
- Do I have multiple readers?
- Who needs to see or to use the document?
- What are my readers’ needs concerning my subject?
- What are their attitudes about the subject?
- What do my readers already know about the subject?
- Should I define basic terminology, or will such definitions merely bore my readers or even impede them?
- Am I communicating with international readers and therefore dealing with issues inherent in global communication?
You will learn about context or the environment or circumstances in which writers produce documents and within which readers interpret their meanings. Everything is written in a context.
Determining the Scope. Determining your purpose and assessing your readers and context will help you decide what to include and what not to include in your technical writing. Those decisions establish the scope of your technical writing project. You will learn to clearly define the scope to avoid spending needless hours on research because you are not sure what kind of information you need or even how much.
Selecting the Medium. Finally, you will learn:
- how to determine the most appropriate medium for communicating your message.
- the audience and the purpose of the communication are the most important considerations in selecting the appropriate medium.
- the comparative advantages and primary characteristics of the most typical communication means.
Step Two: Research
You will learn the only way to write about a complex subject is to understand it thoroughly. To do that, you must conduct adequate research,
Methods of Research. You will learn researchers frequently distinguish between primary and secondary research, depending on the types of sources consulted and the method of gathering information. Primary research refers to gathering raw data compiled from interviews, direct observation, surveys, experiments, questionnaires, and audio and video recordings. Secondary research refers to gathering analyzed information, assessed, evaluated, compiled, or otherwise organized into an accessible form. You will learn to use the methods most appropriate to your needs, recognizing that some projects will require several types of research and that collaborative projects may require those research tasks to be distributed among team members.
You should consider all sources of information when you begin your research and use the most appropriate and useful information. The amount of research you will need to do depends on the scope of your project.
Step Three: Organization
Without organization, the material gathered during your research will be incoherent to your readers. You will learn to organize information effectively, determine the best way to structure your ideas, and choose a primary development method.
Methods of Development. You will learn an appropriate development method is the writer’s tool for keeping information under control and the readers’ means of following the writer’s presentation. You will learn to analyze the information you have gathered, choose the method that best suits your subject, your readers’ needs, and your purpose.
Outlining. You will learn a well-developed outline ensures your document will be complete and logically organized, allowing you to focus exclusively on writing when you begin the rough draft. You will learn how to break large or complex subjects into manageable parts and emphasize key points by placing them in the greatest importance positions.
You will learn to consider the layout and design elements like photographs and tables to help your readers and be appropriate for your subject and purpose. The outline can also suggest where headings, lists, and other special design features may be useful.
Step Four: Writing
Next, you will learn how to write the first draft by expanding your outline into paragraphs without worrying about grammar, refinements of language usage, or punctuation. Writing and revising are different activities; refinements come with revision.
Even with good preparation, writing the draft remains a chore for many writers. You will learn the most effective way to get started and keep going is to use your outline as a map for your first draft.
You will learn to write an introduction last because you will know more precisely what is in the draft body. Your opening should announce the subject and give readers essential background information, such as the document’s primary purpose. For longer documents, an introduction should serve as a frame into which readers can fit the detailed information that follows.
Finally, you will learn to write a conclusion that ties the main ideas together and emphatically makes a final significant point depending on the purpose of your technical writing and your readers’ needs.
Step Five: Revision
The clearer finished technical writing seems to the reader, the more effort the writer has put into its revision. If you have followed what you have learned about the writing process steps, you will have a rough draft that needs to be revised. You will learn revising, however, requires a different frame of mind than does writing the draft. During revision, be eager to find and correct faults and be honest. Be hard on yourself for the benefit of your readers. Read and evaluate the draft as if you were a reader seeing it for the first time.
You will learn to check your draft for accuracy, completeness, and effectiveness to achieve your purpose and meet your readers’ needs and expectations. Trim extraneous information: Your technical writing should give readers exactly what they need, but it should not burden them with unnecessary information or sidetrack them into loosely related subjects.
You will learn not to try to revise everything at once. Read your rough draft several times, looking for and correcting a different set of problems or errors. Concentrate first on larger issues, such as unity and coherence; save mechanical corrections, like spelling and punctuation, for later proofreading.
Finally, you will learn about important documents, consider having others review your writing, and make suggestions for improvement. For collaborative writing, of course, team members must review each other’s work on segments of the document and the final master draft.