Many of the required technical information that people know today is commonly loaded with computer software, various tools, and electronic devices. Technical communication is vital to share information and help the users to better understand the technology or the product. It takes time to come up with technical information and additional time to translate the content.
The way manufacturers share the knowledge is through technical documentation.
Definition of technical documentation
As mentioned, manufacturers create technical documentation to help end-users understand the architecture and work dynamics of the gadget or products they use. It is a detailed description of the products and a guide on how to use the item.
Parts of a technical document
The parts of a technical document vary, depending on the document itself and its purpose. Broadly, a how-to document consists of three essential parts:
- Table of contents
- Actual instructions
- Index or glossary
Elements of a technical document
There are many sub-components in each principal component, requiring an expert to write technical documents.
1. Front cover
- Document number
- Document version
- Title of the product
- Product version
- Document release date
- A copyright statement, date, other proprietary intellectual property-related text
- The product image or graphic
- Corporate logo
- Trademark statement for the various brands mentioned in the technical document
- Company information, contact numbers, website URL, etc.
- Disclaimer and disclosure texts
Note: You do not add page number to the front cover
2. Table of contents
When preparing the table of contents (TOC), you usually start with the page number in lowercase letters. Typically, you start with ‘’iii’’ or Roman numeral ‘’3’’ because the front cover usually takes two pages.
Next, come the Chapter Titles and the page numbers. Indent the section titles and the page numbers. Indent the sub-sections as well. All the entries in the TOC should have a page number where the user can find the particular information.
After the titles, include the list of figures and the page numbers, the list of tables and the page numbers, other lists (such as authors), followed by the glossary, addendum, appendix, and index titles.
The glossary usually comes with two columns for the item and description and will contain the technical terms, abbreviations, and acronyms included in the content.
3. Back cover
The back cover contains the corporate logo, all the corporate contact information, and the copyright statement and date.
10 tips to improve technical writing abilities
Researchers and engineers usually create technical documents. They must be proficient in communication to ensure that users can understand what they want to impart. But often, they do not have the writing skills to create technical documents that end-users can definitely appreciate, since their level of comprehension differs.
If you’re specializing in technical writing, have the skills to create functional documents, and possess a high level of technical expertise and understanding with a coherent, concise, and clear manner of expressing information.
Here are some pointers on how to improve your technical writing skills.
- Think of the target audience
Technical writing has a specific audience. You should consider who they are and what they need to know and do. Provide the reader with a set of logical steps, and explain what they need to do at each step.
- Know the product inside and out
You must know the product thoroughly, so you can share complex ideas and concepts in simple terms. Get all the information from the client, do additional research, consult experts, and read related information. Do this until you feel ready to explain content accurately but in a language that is easy to understand.
- Think of the right structure
Create a logical structure for the delivery of information. Think of what the users need to do if they encounter a problem. Think of all the things that can go wrong and give them a precise explanation. Make sure the ideas flow freely and naturally. Use transitions if there are several sections to improve readability.
- Layout the text properly
The proper layout makes the text easy to navigate. The right layout makes the text more understandable. Remember that some readers scan through the document and pick up the important points they need while others want to read all the content.
- Add illustrations
Illustrations can break up the monotony of reading a continuous flow of text. Illustrations may be necessary to identify the parts of the product, for example, a laptop. You can use diagrams, photographs, illustrations, charts, and tables. But use them sparingly and make sure users can refer to them when reading related text.
- Provide examples
Examples tie up the information you have with reality, turning the ideas into practical things. Adding visuals can help to explain various situations.
- Enhance searchability
Make sure the reader can easily find related information easily using the table of contents or the index. The TOC is the roadmap to the entire document. The index is also helpful in searching for specific information.
- Connect with the readers
Humans will use your text, so use a conversational style. Write in the second person, which also adds to making your text easier to read. Use the active voice and present tense as much as possible. Remember that the readers will have different comprehension levels, so it is practical to make the text accessible.
- Read and revise
Even if you are a subject matter expert, always read and revise your text. Using an editor and proofreader will help to test the document and find errors in it before submission.
- Get feedback
Feedback will help improve your technical writing skills. You will know if your document is helpful, if they understand the message, or if their questions find the solutions from your text. Constructive criticisms and negative feedback will give you the opportunity to improve your writing skills, as other people can see errors and other unnecessary writing patterns you cannot see yourself.
Do you need help with translating technical documents?
Technical documents need subject matter expertise and eTranslation Services can readily provide you with an expert. Our translators are native speakers, with the years of field experience required for translating technical documents in over 200 languages. You can email us at [email protected]etranslationservices.com or call us at (800) 882-6058 for a no-obligation quote or further information today.