Technical Writing in the Digital Age

Technical Writing in the Digital Age
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My first degree was a Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Biology. I am familiar with technical writing, especially scientific articles and lab instructions. In addition, I regularly write codes and ordinances for local government, which requires a lot of specific (legalese) language, cross-referenced to all other existing sections of codes, and comparisons to other municipalities' codes as research material. What don't I do (ever)? I have never incorporated the "Digital Age" portion of this equation. I have zero, nada, no experience with writing online, blogging, social media, etc. That's right! No social media either!


Technical Writing

So much of what we read daily falls into the category of technical writing. All of those instructions, press releases, data sheets, journal articles, procedures, proposals, and the list goes on. According to wikipedia, "A technical writer's primary task is to communicate technical information to another person or party in the clearest and most effective manner possible." This requires not only exceptional communication skills to be exhibited by the writer but the ability to present the information in a variety of formats and platforms, to best meet the needs of the audience. Understanding the audience's needs, vocabulary, procedures, or methodologies, is key to communicating effectively. In addition, the writer must consider how widespread the document usage will be. Will the document be used in other countries? cultures? languages?  


The Digital Age

How important is the medium? People are consuming information in many more ways now than when I began my journey in education. As a consumer of knowledge by technology, I had not previously considered the steps required to produce the final product in a functional and attractive presentation. Both are equally important. In a digital format, there is a luxury of additional links, photos, tools, downloadables, etc. that can all improve the users' experience when presented in a clear easy-to-follow, attractive format. The final products in digital writing should be accessible, and provide good interactivity, and adaptability.  


Photo by hannah grace / Unsplash

The Good Writer

As explained by Brian Carroll in Writing for Digital Media, a good writer should be brief, precise, active, imaginative, direct, consistent, aware, and concise. These are the things that I will work towards throughout this semester. There is overlap in the descriptors, where brief means clear and concise. When the writer determines their audience, the application of the descriptors will become more clear, for example when writing is meant to be imaginative, it may not be direct.

Writing should take the reader on a clearly defined path. The writer should organize the piece with the topic and main points while considering the audience and purpose, and finally the resources that will be used. This information will lead to an outline. Once a piece is written, the author should review, revise, and repeat.


The New Writer

How do I plan to take the knowledge from this course and apply it to my interests as a digital writer? I have been thinking about starting a blog for a few months but have not taken steps forward to actually get it started. Now, I have. I have come up with my domain, host, and platform. I have even started adding plug-ins and considering SEO and how to gain email subscribers. All of these terms seemed like a foreign language to me just a few weeks ago, but I am encouraged by my progress so far. This course will help me further my career, which leaves me intimidated but excited!

Beyond the steps on my computer, I've spent a little time using dead trees to niche down, brainstorm about my audience, and come up with a tagline and a few main topics for posts that are important to me and my (future) readers. I intend to gather as much information as possible from this class to help get me started.

Resources:

  • Carroll, Brian (2010). Writing for Digital Media. New York: Routledge.
Claire Toledo

Claire Toledo

Claire is a proud manager for local government. She is working to complete her MBPL, and balances work and school with family--husband, 2 independent children, dogs, cats, and chickens.
Defiance, Missouri