Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Characteristics of a Good Technical Writer

Traits of a Technical Writer
One of the many ways for freelance writers to survive the irregular demands for their writings is to become technical writers.

A good article detailing the criteria of a good techical writer can be found in the following link.

What Are the Characteristics of a Good Technical Writer?

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Wordle for Frequently Used Words

Ever heard of a wordle? A wordle is a tool for generating 'word clouds' to analyze and create greater prominence of words frequently used in a source text, such as blog.

The following image shows he frequently used words at this blog. The larger the size of the word is displayed, the greater the number of times the word has been used.

Wordle http://www.wordle.net ~ June 2, 2009

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Editorial Style Guide

Editorial Style Guide
When writing for corporate communication, it is usual for writers to follow a certain style of writing as prescribed by the corporation. This style is commonly termed as house style or editorial style guide.

Not too long ago, I was tasked by a corporation in the technology industry to come out with an Editorial Style Guide for its marketing communication team and internal technical writers. As documentation in the corporation involves various genres of writings, I decided upon using the standards or guidelines set by two of the world's most accepted editorial styles: Modern Language Association (MLA) and Associated Press (AP).

Documentation with content primarily consisting of story writing style will follow the guidelines by MLA, while documentation associated with news or media will follow the guidelines by AP. This essentially means documentation using MLA editorial style will include technical paper, white paper, solution brief, solution guide, user guide, sales guide, product data sheet, magazine, newsletter, presentation, proposal, release note, report, training material and web content. Documentation using AP style, on the other hand, will include press/media/news release, media kit, news wire and other related stuff.

One of the key differences between the two style guides is in the way a heading or title is written. While MLA style guide recommends de-capitalizing all conjunctions, prepositions, and articles in headings or titles with the exception of the first and last word, AP style guide recommends capitalizing all principal words including verbs, prepositions and conjunctions with more than three letters.

Editorial style guides are essential tools for writers looking into writing for corporations and businesses. If you are planning to look into writing for the commercial world, you will need to understand some of the standards required in writing practices for the industry, including the usage of capitalization, abbreviation, punctuation, quotation and numbers.

More information on Editorial Style Guide available:

Monday, February 23, 2009

Customer-Centric Writing

There are many ways to write a story, and depending on the point of view or the angle the story is written will decide how readers respond to the story or be drawn to continue reading the story.Take a scenario description in a solution guide of a computer networking company for example. The scenario may be described in three different ways:

Option 1
A company with 5 to 50 computer network nodes hopes to achieve more efficient information-sharing among employees. Budget and IT expertise are key constraints. The company wants a network infrastructure solution that is cost effective, easy to deploy, and simple to manage.

Option 2
Alex is the owner of a company with 5 to 50 employees. He hopes to have his employees share information more efficiently. Budget and IT expertise are key constraints, and Alex hopes to have a network infrastructure that is cost effective, easy to deploy, and simple to manage.

Option 3
Your company is made up of 5 to 50 employees with each having a computer, and you hope to have your employees share information efficiently and securely. Budget and IT expertise are key constraints, and you hope to build a network infrastructure which is cost effective, easy to deploy, and simple to manage.

Which of the three options above do you think is more customer-centric? Option 1 is not the one, because it does not draw customers’ attention to desire to read further. Option 2 is not too bad as a narrative and is perfectly normal for novel reading, being written from a third person’s perspective. Option 3, however, is usually preferred for business writing because it draws the reader into the scenario.

Customer-centric writing is in some way similar to marketing writing or copywriting, where the AIDA principle applies. AIDA stands for Attention, Interest, Desire, and Action. AIDA is usually achieved in sequence, first to draw readers’ attention especially in the headlines, then the interest to continue reading, bring the customer to desire the product or solution before taking final action to purchase.

In the example mentioned above, when it comes to writing about the solution, therefore, rather than emphasize what the company can offer as a solution, write to show the customer how the solution can help meet their needs and provide benefits.