Essential Questions To Develop An Effective Piece Of Technical Writing

Who Is My Audience?

Something you will have to consider before you begin writing your technical report, white paper, user guide, or other document is who you are writing it for. This is extremely important, as understanding your audience will help you develop a document that will be readily understood by the vast majority of those who read it. Your audience will determine the level of complexity of your document, the amount of background information that should be included, and whether an explanation of technical terms used in the document will be needed. When you write a document for a client, the intended audience will likely fall under one of these broad categories:

Experts: These individuals will already possess an in-depth understanding of the topic being discussed in the technical document. They are typically highly-educated, and may have even designed and tested the product or process being covered in the report. Documents for an expert audience are usually written at a very high level. As a general rule, you can feel free to use highly technical terms. Very little explanation or background information will likely be needed, since experts will already possess this knowledge. These types of documents are usually too complex for those who don't have previous knowledge of the topic to comprehend.

Technicians: Another audience you may have to write for are technicians. These individuals will likely have hands-on experience with the product, and they may be involved in building and repairing it. Since technicians will have a good working knowledge of the product or process, you probably won't have to include a lot of background information or explanations of technical terms. However, you may have to explain relevant theories and the design process, since they will have little prior knowledge of these aspects.

Nonspecialists: These individuals will have little or no technical knowledge of the topic. Many people who use assembly instructions to put together a desk or rely on help files to troubleshoot a software program would fall under this category. Documents written for nonspecialists typically use relatively simple language. You will need to explain any terms a non-technical audience would be unfamiliar with, outline any processes in a straightforward, step-by-step manner, and provide any background information necessary for the reader to gain a better understanding of the topic.

Last Updated: 05/05/2014