Communication is essential in any industry. Good verbal and written communication skills are highly valued by employers, especially in today's multidisciplinary teams.
Still, it can be hard to find workers in technical fields with strong written communication skills. Engineers with proven experience in good technical writing are highly valued. Effective writing can increase the clarity and coherence of communication with audiences or user bases. Ineffective technical writing can lead to confusion and frustration and can even drive users away from products and projects that you are trying to promote or document.
Since clear, solid communication is invaluable in the engineering industry and for project documentation procedures, here are five tips to follow in order to strengthen your technical writing:
1. Remember Your Audience
In such a diverse and interconnected industry, it can be difficult to find an audience that shares your specific knowledge about a product or method. The key is to make sure you are not overloading the audience with jargon and technical terms that will only serve to confuse. Aim your vocabulary at the audience’s level of understanding. If you don’t, then the audience has a high probability of not being able to follow you, and that is when your communication fails.
2. Minimize Ambiguity
“A few”, “very”, “bigger”, “a while”, etc. If you are using terms like these, chances are that you are not being as exact as you should be in your writing. Be specific; not only will you provide a clear answer, but you will also provide a reference point for your audience to recognize.
If finding exact values and figures isn’t possible, provide clear approximations, descriptions, or graphics about the product you are describing. For instance, if there is variation in how your product may perform, give the user both the information on how it is expected to operate, and what else the user may have to look out for during operation.
A good example would be directions for motor operation, explaining that the motor should only run for forty minutes at a time. If the enclosure becomes too hot to touch, shut off the motor. These kinds of instructions provide a general time window to rely on, but it also gives the user a reason to pay attention to its operation, as the motor could become too hot well before forty minutes under certain conditions, indicating defects, hazards, or potential damage to the device.
3. Watch Out for Dangling Modifiers
The term “dangling modifier” might be the closest this post will get to a lecture on English literature, but in reality dangling modifiers are everywhere in technical writing, and they often lead to unnecessary confusion. A modifier is a phrase or sentence that modifies (adds extra information to) a noun after the noun has been introduced.
However, a dangling modifier “dangles” after a noun, so much that the modifier becomes ambiguous and unclear. Example: “Connect the wire to the relay. It should be blue.” What should be blue, the relay or the wire? This is a very basic example, but it shows how unspecific pronouns can instantly lead to confusion, or even worse, errors. The easiest way to avoid these errors is to use fewer pronouns and watch out for ambiguous word order.
4. Avoid Industry Slang
In reiteration, the engineering industry is very diverse, and isolated slang terms and acronyms from one company may not translate to another. It is important to remember that when communicating across different regions, your terminology may not be understood completely. This is really just another reminder to write in plain language.
5. Get Feedback
If there is an opportunity to receive feedback or comments about your writing, take it. Outside opinions can identify any confusing language or examples quickly, and help you eliminate potentially confusing writing. Writing skills will only improve over time through trial and error.
Choosing a Project Partner with Technical Documentation Standards
Writing clearly and coherently not only saves readers from frustration and confusion — it also saves crucial time and money. Accurate, explicit writing is a key part of excellent documentation. Thorough documentation is critical in designing, modifying, and upgrading industrial control panels.
Our engineers are committed to working with you to manufacture industrial control panels custom-designed to your specific needs. Call Panelshop.com today or submit a quote and our experienced staff will be there to help create your next design together.