I’ve had quite a bit of experience dealing with technical writers within the auto industry, which other than space travel, encompasses about every type of technical skill known to mankind.
These people, of course are all engineers and quite intelligent as far as book smart goes, and as the industry itself attempts to hire the brightest of the bright, some are near genesis’s in their realm within the field of expertise.
The main issue I had with most of these people was they were super intelligent, but couldn’t pour water out of a boot if the directions were on the bottom. As a rule, they lacked people skills and couldn’t grasp the fact they knew more than 99% of their audiences, which led to break downs in communication when they authored technical papers.
The Technical Writers’ first responsibility is to back away from an assigned task and ask themselves a very simple question. “Who am I writing this for?” Quite simple, but so overlooked.
If you’re attempting to write a technical paper or instructions, or whatever, you are most likely either an expert in the field or you’re attempting to portray you’re an expert, both positions are fraught with land mines if you’re not careful.
One must remember people don’t care how much you know, they care how much of what you know you can give them to take away with them, and information which can not be understood, can not be taken away for any useful purpose.
Analyze your intended audience carefully because they are the ones which will determine your success. Why should you care if an expert in the field, mocks your writing because he perceives, or does know more than you appear to know? Only ego, and there’s no place for ego here, would make the writer feel small.
Instead, look at the response of your intended target audience. Are they meeting your writing with enthusiasm and clamoring for more? Do they ask serious questions which relate to the subject which requires small clarification or questions which clearly demonstrate they comprehend the material and want more?
Once you decide the educational, experience level and desired goals the audience wishes to obtain, write to those specifications. Should you be writing an article on plumbing repairs for a DYI audience, you’d write about home repairs and break the information down to its simplest form.
However, if your audience is a group of plumbing contractors, your subject matter would consist of new applications and new products designed for commercial application, and perhaps an amazing new method or product which would greatly enhance their profit margin for residential applications.
Writing for your intended audience is not difficult once you identify them for who and what they are and want, not who you think they are and want.