9 Ways Engineers Can Improve Their Technical Writing Skills
Writing is a skill that we can learn easily, but writing eloquently is something that only a few can claim. Anything that keeps you on a page can be said as an engaging piece of content.
Technical writing is definitely a niche specific form of writing. It is complex when compared to the different forms of writing, and the level of complexity varies with the subject that is being discussed.
Engineers use technical articles on a daily basis. And to connect with engineers, the content must also speak their language.
Hence, today, engineers themselves are tasked with technical writing. However, many engineers fail to meet the quality level expected from an educational or explanatory technical article.
Engineers can't be blamed for the same as their trade of study does not involve a curriculum aimed at increasing their writing proficiency. But that doesn’t mean it should always stay that way.
One of the unique qualities of an engineer is adaptability. And this article is aimed at helping you get better at writing technical articles.
1. Familiarize with the subject
Einstein quoted “If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough.”
This is the case for every single phenomenon or mechanism out there; if you cannot explain it well, you haven't understood it well.
A technical article is not inherently complex. The subject it handles might be complex, but the objective is to explain the complex idea in very easy terms.
To achieve this, you must be very familiar with the subject at hand. So the first and foremost step is to study the subject very well.
2. Create a structure
Once you’ve grasped enough knowledge about the subject, the next step is to create a structure for the article or the content. A structure is essential, because, without it, you may fail to add in important details or overdo the whole article.
A structure helps you to make sure that every point to be covered is appropriately included within the content.
3. Never miss out on an opportunity to read
One of the most overlooked aspects of writing is reading! The more you read, the more you learn about how to form sentences, and it has a very big impact on vocabulary.
That said, one of the key areas where engineers struggle is vocabulary. Without a robust vocabulary, simple explanations become increasingly complex.
With reading, you expose yourself to another person’s take on things. This helps to form your own opinions, and the vocabulary boost is essential to translate complexities into simple words.
4. Keep it simple
After you have written the whole piece, take some time off before you read it from the top. This helps you to read the whole content with a fresh mind, making it easier for spotting errors and other mistakes.
Another important part here is to spot the lines that are hard to comprehend. When you write a technical article, peruse it from a regular reader’s viewpoint. It greatly helps to keep the content simple and easy to understand.
Remember, there is beauty in simplicity.
5. Mix it up with visuals
Yes, we know that this article is about helping engineers to be better at technical “writing,” but this point is very critical in helping users to understand what you write more easily. Sometimes, it is inevitable that an engineering process or methodology is too complex and turning them into words doesn't paint the whole picture.
This is where visuals come in to save the day. By using visuals like images or illustrations, it's much easier for the reader to grasp the content.
6. Short sentences go a long way
Long sentences are a big NO-NO if you want your technical content to be easily understood. When the sentences are long, there is a great chance that sentences can become quite cumbersome to understand.
If your work contains a long sentence, break them down to smaller ones. It not only changes the overall difficulty of the articles but also makes the content easier to the eyes, making it more approachable.
7. Stay with active voice
Technical content rarely needs to dwell in the past. So, using passive voice makes the whole content look a bit off. However, when the lines are written in active voice, the content takes up an authoritative and engaging tonality.
Technical articles should not be written in passive voice unless they are specifically instructed to be structured that way.
8. Take tiny breaks
Nobody can write continuously for hours on end. If you try to do so, quality will definitely take some hits. The best way is to approach it is by taking short breaks between your writing sessions.
For example, take 5-minute breaks every half an hour to stretch your legs a bit. It will breathe new life into the way you write and brings the best in the whole article.
9. Review process
We would not advise anyone to review the article or content immediately after you complete writing it. This leads to missing out on certain details as your brain tries to fill in for all the mistakes you may have made during the writing process.
Therefore, a disconnection is needed between the writer and the content to make sure that the review process is carried out in the most effective way. The best way to do is to either take a break or read something else that is not connected to your work.
This will help you to review what you wrote in a fresh mind, helping you to further enhance the content, spot mistakes, and resolve them with ease.
The most important tip of all is to never give up! Writing can be a challenging process, but with practice, it is surely a trade that is worth mastering.
Being an engineer, no challenge is too big! So pick up the pen or prep the keyboard, and start writing!
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