We're all Tech Writers Now: Three Steps to Clear Writing for the Web

We're all Tech Writers Now: Three Steps to Clear Writing for the Web

Take some tips from technical writing that may make your opinions clear and persuasive in the new reading environment of the web.

Print media puts the reader in the passenger's seat. Imagine if you don't want a character to die? What if you don't just like the direction the story has taken? Traditional reading is linear--you start at chapter one and you visit the end, without detours in between.

Instruction manuals have always been different. Who reads instruction manuals from beginning to end? Instead you dip into it, try something, and when that doesn't appear to work, flip several pages backward or forward and try again.

Now write for us technology has turned into a huge manual where in fact the reader can maneuver around at will--technology has stolen authorial control. You need to expect your readers to jump around. To be successful, whatever you write for the net has to follow the same three rules that technical writers use:

Write in Chunks

Readers pick and choose. Recognize that your audience is not expecting a story--they have specific goals. Points need to be self-contained and clearly marked to help them find what they're searching for and move on. Respect your reader's time--don't make sure they are eat the sundae when all they need is the cherry.

Follow a Structure

You can structure your content by category, rank, location--but there should be a structure. By organizing your details you are giving your reader an instrument that lets them find what they're searching for and skip what they don't really need. If you cannot find a structure that works, you need to define your points more clearly.

Connect it Together

You can't force your reader to follow the path you've set for them, nevertheless, you can give them access to information that supports your message. Don't be afraid to link, both to resources outside your document and to pages in it. Your role is to help them achieve their goals; point them towards resources that help them do this.

Like technical writing, the web is approximately helping people find information. Adopt a number of the principals of technical writing in your own work to create it get results.

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