Technical Authors - Documentation Consultants





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Why Use an Author?

A Technical Author is an expert in communicating information. You may have a large amount of information which may be highly complex, and you may need to communicate this to a wide range of people. A good technical author/writer will be able to work out who needs to know what information; and devise the best method of giving them the information they find most useful.

If you have a subject matter expert (such as a skilled R&D Engineer or a software developer), and ask them to produce the technical documentation, there is often a risk that they will assume too much knowledge or experience on the part of the user. Importantly too, they can often misunderstand the extent to which a user can think logically about the product and how it is intended to be used. They can also fall into the trap of thinking that technically-accurate writing is good enough to satisfy most users.

Most technical authors are very familiar with the concept of different writing styles; and most should be able to write in the style most suited to your particular users. For example, here at Red House, we are perfectly happy to write highly-technical documentation for API software developers; or to write easy-to-follow instructions for ordinary members of the public, or anything in between. The use of the correct writing style can have a hugely positive effect on how the documentation will be understood and used. It can prove to be highly beneficial in terms of end users using or recommending your products or your company.

Writing Styles

If the person writing the documentation can not write in anything other than their own personal writing style, you may be creating some serious problems for the future.

An experienced author will be able to place themselves "in the mind" of a novice end user, and write documentation which is appropriate for those users and their needs. This is especially true for documentation used by members of the public.

Importantly, though, technical writing is far more than simply arranging the appropriate words on the page. As well as the ability to write in English to a high standard, a technical author must have the ability to assimilate new information quickly and decide how best to communicate that information to the users of the product. Authors also need to understand the technical and social background of the end users and their cultural heritage, as these have a great impact on how those users make use of the product and its documentation. An experienced author should also be familiar with project management, version control and quality control procedures.

In terms of developing documentation sets (such as user, installation and service manuals for the same product), a good author will also be ready to make a quick start on the documentation planning processes. In our experience, this planning phase covers two simple, but vitally important questions:

  • Who am I Writing for?
  • What do they want to know?

Asking these questions early on in the documentation cycle, helps the planning process for the documentation (as it then becomes much clearer what is actually needed), and it allows for deadlines and dependencies to be planned and met. Having advance notice of documentation requirements, helps bring the project in "on-time" and "on-budget" especially at the later stages of the project, when sourcing suppliers for printed materials.

Engaging an author can prove highly beneficial, both for planning and in terms of education.  As experienced authors, we are happy to prepare a documentation plan in the early stages of the project; and then come back into the team later on when you are moving towards the final delivery deadline. Good planning can also help make project documentation work using "single-source" technologies - a very good way in which the production costs of documentation can be kept to a minimum.

Red House Consultancy Services Ltd
The Old Post Office, 10 Badger Lane, Blackshawhead, Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire HX7 7JX.
Phone 07785 712 200
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