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Technical writing: 3 common things to consider when writing for software engineers

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In software engineering, there’s the need to document new or existing processes in some form. There are several ways by which this is done and one of these is called technical writing. This post will explore three common things required to produce a good technical document.

What is technical writing?

Wikipedia defines it as “writing or drafting technical communication used in technical and occupational fields”. It is an interesting definition in my opinion because it uses language that draws attention to the fact that there are other forms of writing. This definition alludes to the fact that fields like software engineering require a more specialised type of writing to communicate an dea.

Things to Consider

Ok, now that we’ve gotten the definition out of the way, you might be asking yourself what are some of the things required to write a good technical document? Well, let’s take a look at what to consider when putting together a technical document.

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Your skill set

This is a no-brainer, right? To most people, yes, but sometimes a poorly written technical document doesn’t always mean the author is a bad writer but rather they lack the appropriate level of skill needed to write the document. It’s better to produce a document that matches your experience level and is also clearly communicated in writing, the audience being targeted in the document. That said, one way to improve your skill set is to read more material on the subject you’re writing about. Another way is to implement the concepts you are writing about which provides more insight into how things work and sets you up to better communicate them.

Know your audience

Pivoting from the section on technical skills, knowing your audience (i.e. who you’re writing for) is very important in producing a good technical document. Being aware of who will be consuming your technical document means you should tailor how concepts and processes are introduced and explained in a way that the reader can easily digest. Also knowing your audience means selecting the type of category your writing falls into. Knowing when to write a how-to document versus a policy document.

Do some research

Research is critical to ensuring that what is being written is concise and contains factual information. The goal of technical writing is to share knowledge; so failing to share good and correct knowledge defeats the purpose in itself. Blogs and other technical documents provide a rich store of information that you could utilise in enriching your technical document as well as verifying the content being shared.

Broad topic

The topic of technical writing is a pretty broad one which covers many types of technical documents like white papers, press releases, and case studies to name a few. Each has some unique things to consider when writing but the three things shared are common to all technical documents. Hopefully, they help improve your technical writing skills. I have trust in you.

So who am I to judge?

Well, I’m a software engineer with more than 7 years of experience who has helped build products in the telecommunications, finance, and marketing industries across America, Europe, and Africa. I enjoy sharing my ideas and thoughts which I hope would prove useful to other people interested in tech topics.