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"Next, we will then start coding. The first thing we should do is to..."
Technical writing may seem like a piece of cake — who can’t write a set of step-by-step instructions?
But it’s not that simple. A technical writer establishes a voice and personality for the piece, just like any other writer. That voice can be dry and machine-like, leaving it up to you to process the information in your own head, or personable and warm — right there with you as you go through the steps.
A technical writer needs an editor just like any other writer to avoid the mistakes in the example above. After looking at the same piece of writing for so long, and focusing on the technical instructions, an instruction that tells us ‘next we will’, ‘then start’, ‘the first thing we should do’ is easy to miss. This example is harmless — it’s good for a smile but screams to be improved. But, it shows how the language we use in instructional writing can get our end-user into trouble — or simply distract them from the task at hand.
Technical documents reflect on an organization’s professionalism, and on the writer’s own skill and subject matter knowledge. Technical documents show the organization’s focus on the customer when documents are written with the technical level of the end-user in mind, and written with a friendly, helpful attitude. Take pride people! Yes, someone will read every word!