I am an aspiring technical writer, and I already have a year of experience as a technical writing intern. Technical writers seek to convey crucial information to their readers in clear, concise writing. It is important that the information is accurate and understandable, because in some situations a person’s job-or their life-could depend on it.
One of the lessons I found most relevant to my field of study was when, in my Technical Communications course, we had to create a set of instructions. As a technical writing intern, I frequently find myself writing and editing job aids and articles that are basically instructions for a certain job or task. From this course, I learned how to create reader-centered instructions. I learned that instructions should include an introduction, description of equipment, list of materials and equipment, directions, and troubleshooting. The troubleshooting section was especially significant for me, because when I have created instructions in my job before, I have never thought to add such a section. Additionally, I learned to consider reader-centered questions such as “What will these instructions help me do?” and “Is there anything special I need to know to be able to use these instructions effectively?”
In fact, the most useful lesson that I learned during this course was to think about the reader. This sounds so simple, but requires a lot more thought and planning than I originally believed. To create an efficient technical document, you should think about the reader’s point of view, their level of experience, their opinion coming into the situation, their potential questions, and even their potential issues or confusions. And these are just a few of the considerations you should have regarding the reader. I feel like sometimes I used to get carried away with writing a document, making it too wordy or too simplified, and thinking more about how I would like it to be structured and written. Now, I make a point to consider what the reader would prefer, and what they would find most effective and useful.
Another lesson that I have found important to my field of study is learning how to create a technical report. When I wrote my two component empirical report, I learned how to organize a report, define my goals, conduct research, plan out the report, and draft and revise the report. Again, I realized that for each section, I should consider the reader, such as in the the conclusions section, where I describe the significance of the results of my report. I believe that learning to compose a technical report is essential to my growth as a technical writer, as I know that I will come across many of these during my career.
Overall, this course helped me in a number of ways, but I think the most useful thing that it has done for me was to teach me a new and critical way to think about writing. I should always have the outcome of the document in mind- the reader actually reading it, and consider this from all aspects as I write.