Common Mistakes in Technical Writing

Let’s have a look at the most common mistakes in technical writing, so you’ll avoid them. I’ll also provide you with tips that help you fix them.

Poor Structure

Many technical documents confuse readers, so they can’t achieve their goals because they just can’t find the necessary topic part or understand the steps. Usually, it happens to long documents where it’s difficult to find necessary information, sections don’t follow naturally from each other, cross-references are a mess, and so on. It makes the document virtually unusable.

Tip: Firstly, think carefully about the overall layout of the document. Moreover, instead of a long topic, create several topics — there can be a landing topic and child topics like this:

Source: ClickHelp User Manual

Also, create a table of content for your documentation like in books, so users will not have to read the whole document but only the necessary part.

Too much Jargon

Unfortunately, some technical writers forget that they create documentation for people and they are different that’s why some documents may contain jargon. It’s inappropriate if you create documents for general audiences, the content should be easy-to-understand for every reader. Of course, internal and/or specialized documentation is an exclusion but a tech writer should also follow the main rule — create concise and clear documentation.

Tip: Identify and visualize your readers, the best idea is to gather a focus group to communicate with your readers directly. Consider what level and type of technicality in the writing will be appropriate for them and what won’t be. If there are no possibilities to learn your target audience or you’re not sure your readers will know all the technical terms you plan to use in your document, it’s a good idea to include a glossary at the start of a text. Also, you can use the readability metrics to make sure that your audience will easily understand your documentation.

Poor Content

By ‘poor content’ I mean poor punctuation, typos, mistakes and the like. Of course, we’re all people and can miss something but you should do your best to write high-quality content because mistakes are just inappropriate in documentation.

Tip: Usually, reviewers check content for mistakes but if your team is small, in this case, use grammar checkers like Grammarly or Hemingway to make your documentation user-friendly. Additionally, you can also ask your team members to read your documentation.

What are your tips for creating high-quality documentation?

Written by
Ann Green
Content Manager at ClickHelp. In my blog, I write about technical writing.