TECHNICAL WRITING, A SPECIFIC APPROACH

Technical writing is a discipline in its own right. A technical writer, in addition to being a good communicator and populariser, has very technical skills

I live in a relatively old house. 17th century… no, very old. Finding suitable furniture is often very tricky. The walls are not perfectly straight… a thousand miles away from a classic flat. In short, something very specific.

So one day I then decided that a tailor-made table would be of the greatest effect. To do this, I needed someone in the trade, I thought. An acquaintance told me, “Call on Mr. So-and-so, who is a carpenter, he’s much cheaper than a carpenter and he also works with wood!

Ok, I go for it, receive a very acceptable quote and look forward to my new acquisition. I describe its functions: a large table with an efficient, resistant and functional style that can accommodate 10 guests. All in wood tones that match my living space.

I get a table. A … huge table, heavy, rough and made of trunks cut in half. You see what I mean? The table that fits very well in a forest cabin, and on which there’s no risk of making marks if you put a glass without a coaster.

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rédaction technique
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Technical writing is the design of written documents accessory to the use or maintenance of machines, instruments, software and spare parts.

Is technical writing useful? Yes, if appropriate

Some of my friends said “this table is fine” with a compassionate look on their face, others asked me if I hadn’t confused a logger with a carpenter.

Technical writing involves in-depth knowledge of readers’ needs and must reflect your company’s image.

Well no, I definitely got what I asked for. 10 guests, functional and nothing to say about the strenght of the product. The fact is that this is not at all what I had in mind. It’s quite normal, my contractor is skilled, but he’s not a carpenter and even less a cabinet maker.

Around the square table of technical writing

Technical writing is the design of written documents regarding the use or maintenance of machines, instruments, software, spare parts, on printed or computer media.

Of course, I am exaggerating with my “big” table. When writing technical documentation, less physically imposing requirements are in the way.

The first step is to understand the product. As much information as possible is gathered with a minimum impact on the operational services. The type of product documented defines the writer’s specialisation. A man-machine interface will be handled much more efficiently by someone with a solid understanding of this field.

La rédaction technique est la forme de communication technique qui utilise l’écriture. La STC (Society for Technical Communication) définit la communication technique comme un domaine qui inclut toute forme de communication présentant certains attributs

During this phase, my kind carpenter should have understood that a (renovated) 17th century house is NOT a log cabin.

Then it is important, before starting any writing, to establish a plan, a framework for the document. Because of regulatory and legal imperatives, it must contain a certain number of elements that cannot be deviated from: guarantee, warnings, explanation of symbols. In terms of furniture, you also create a plan and set the requirements, easy to move, for example. Designing it saves a lot of time!

Then the guidelines are defined according to whether it is a handhold, a user manual or a service manual. For example, a user manual will have to explain how to start up. A service manual the maintenance procedures.

Writing in a technical manner involves close collaboration with illustrators, documentalists, graphic designers and other trades. My contractor has only consulted one company that transports bulky objects…

Seriously, without going into detail about the standards (DITA, DocBook, S1000D) to be respected, technical writing is the work of technical writers. A profession that requires specialised training and know-how.

So I had my very large piece of furniture transported to the back of the garden and hired a carpenter. I saved a lot of time and the table is used every day. It is useful and adequate.

The parallel with writing technical documentation is quite obvious, a well-designed manual saves a lot of time!