Characteristics of effective writing

The written material that technical communicators produce must be:

  • clear
  • concise
  • logical
  • consistent
  • accurate
  • complete
  • relevant.

Clear

Beware of clichés, jargon and technical terms. Avoid metaphor, idiom, slang and colloquial expressions. Use words that your readers will understand easily. Use short, clear headings. Leave no questions unanswered and vary sentence length. Your documents should be readable, coherent and unambiguous. Be specific, not vague or abstract in your writing.

Concise

Minimise the number of words (the shorter the text, the more likely it is to be read). Include the right level of detail, having no more than is necessary. Be direct and to the point.

Logical

Information must be presented in a sequence that is relevant to the reader. Various sequences may be applicable, including: chronological order, level of importance (highest to lowest), order of need (important information first), order of difficulty, general to specific, or alphabetical.

Consistent

Make language, capitalisation and formatting the same for every occurrence of a word or concept. Use parallel structure at all levels. Keep the presentation of your information consistent.

Accurate

In details and facts, check that step numbers are correct and cross references in steps are accurate. In indexes check location references are accurate.

Make sure that the content, grammar, punctuation, capitalisation and spelling are correct.

Complete

Any instructions you provide should be complete, making sure the user has all the information they need to perform a task or make a decision.

Relevant

Ensure that documents contain information that is relevant to the needs of the users. Also make sure that you use headings that are relevant to the information they relate to.

Any comments? (and please tell us where you are writing from)