Essential writing skills

Ability to:

  • write using plain language
  • write for the audience
  • write for different output formats
  • write in the required style
  • write for translation and localisation if required
  • demonstrate advanced English skills.

Plain language

Plain language communication uses clear, concise expression, an effective structure and good document design so that the audience can find what they need, and understand what they find in one reading.

Technical communicators must be proficient in writing using the principles of plain language.

Write for the audience

Ability to:

  • analyse the audience <link to audience analysis> to ensure that you communicate the information in a way that best meets their needs, their context of use and their experience and capabilities
  • tailor your communication for your audience:
    • content
    • format
    • writing style
    • use of illustrations
    • delivery channel and medium.

Examples

Consider the difference between instructions for assembling an IKEA flat pack and a 200 page safety manual. The IKEA instructions contain no words, but are effective for a wide range of literacy levels and are language-independent. On the other hand, a safety manual must contain very precisely worded instructions and must be written in such a way that the information is clear and unambiguous.

If you are writing information for a particular industry or organisation, you can use terminology that is used in that industry or organisation. If you are writing for an audience that has low levels of literacy, you may choose to make more use of illustrations, graphics or video to supplement or replace written information.

If you are writing for an audience that you consider to be time-poor, you need to get your message across as quickly and clearly as possible.

Write for different output formats

Understand the special requirements of different types of outputs such as:

  • paper-based
  • online
  • mobile
  • eBook
  • web
  • intranet
  • wiki.

You should also consider whether it is appropriate to use graphical or video-based formats such as comics, cartoons, screencasts or video. These formats still require writing in the form of scripts or storyboards and may be of value to audiences with low literacy levels or where translation costs for written material are significant.

Examples

<To be written – contributions are welcome>

Write in the required style

Adapt your style of writing according to the requirements of each job, for example:

  • instructional
  • persuasive
  • professional
  • informative.

Examples

<To be written – contributions are welcome>

Write for translation and localisation

Ability to:

  • write in clear simple English suitable for translation
  • use controlled language where necessary to limit vocabulary and assist localisation
  • write text that is ESL/translation friendly
  • use appropriate macrons/accents for non-English words, especially Maori
  • understand issues relating to the internationalisation of graphics
  • understand multi-cultural requirements
  • understand globalisation requirements
  • make appropriate use of graphics, images and other visual presentation techniques to reduce translation requirements.

Advanced English skills

Technical communicators are expected to have advanced skills in the following areas:

  • grammar
  • punctuation
  • spelling
  • vocabulary
  • writing.

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