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This week, we get into some very “meat and potatoes” issues in technical writing. Getting started on your document – the actual organization of it – is critical to success. And graphics are hands down one of the most important tools you will employ in your technical communication. It’s important that you understand how to use them. So without further ado, let’s get started. GETTING STARTED: GENERATING IDEAS AND DRAFTING YOUR DOCUMENT First of all, it’s important to think about technical writing as a process. A lot of people hate to write. They think that writing well is an innate talent, and that you can either do it or you can’t. That’s not true. Now you may never LOVE writing, and it may always be the part of your job you like least, but you CAN improve your writing with practice. The first step in getting comfortable with writing is to stop thinking of it as some kind of mystery, where you sit down at your computer, get clonked over the head by the word fairy and wake up three hours later with some flawlessly written report in front of you. Writing is not that romantic, despite what all the angst-filled, caffeine oozing, would be novelists out there might say. No, writing is a process, a series of steps much like gardening or building a house or balancing your checkbook. Once you realize that, it seems much less intimidating. Don’t believe me? Look at Stephen King’s book “On Writing.” He describes his day as getting up, writing for several hours, breaking for a nap and a walk (Hey, when you’re Stephen King you can nap every day if you want) and then doing whatever else he needs to do. My point is that he treats his writing like the job it is – he has a routine he follows. So what are the steps in the writing process? 1. Planning: This includes all of the analysis you do before starting a document. Who is your audience? What is your purpose? When is the due date? What is the budget? Who will be involved in creating the document? 2. Drafting: This is when you actually put the document together 3. Revising: All documents need revision – it is a critical part of the process. Once you’ve done your research or tested your document, you will probably find it needs some changes. Nobody puts together a perfect document on the first try. Subject matter experts can be helpful in terms of revising or proofing the technical data. A focus group made up of people from your audience can tell you if your document “works.” You could also do formal usability testing on the document – that’s basically gathering a group of your audience members and letting them “use” the document. You observe where and with what they have problems. If you
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do ask for outside help in reviewing the document, make sure your instructions are specific. 4.
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This note was uploaded on 03/18/2012 for the course ITEC 3290 taught by Professor Dunn during the Spring '12 term at East Carolina University .

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