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Brian Cayton on Technical Writing

How many technical documents have you read that were really good? How many were adequate? How many were downright pathetic and unusable?

Using a new program or a new piece of hardware shouldn't be like trying to put together your childrens' new toys at Christmas.

The technical documentation is the customer's first impression of the new product. And first impressions last for a long time. It escapes me how a company can invest tens of thousands of dollars - and sometimes millions of dollars - on a new product, then introduce it with shoddy supporting materials.

Professional marketers know that a finished product is more than a piece of software or hardware. Software and hardware are components, not products. Products are components plus the documentation, support, packaging and everything else that makes the component usable to the consumer.

Documentation should not be written by programmers or engineers. Under no circumstances should documentation be written by the programmer or engineer who developed the product. (He may know what the convolution processor module is, but no one else will have a clue.) Finally documentation should not be written by "professional writers" if they don't have a really good handle on the problem solved by the software or hardware and the technology involved.

Good documentation is a clear translation from technical gobbledygook into "real speak." Good technical writers are, therefore, translators and communicators, not just writers.

The same is true of World Wide Web authors. I have seen too many artistic and creative web pages that clearly do not have well defined goals and objectives. They look great, but do not communicate a clear message. They are therefore, failures. I have seen other pages which did not attempt to be exceptionally creative, but had a message, were well written, and communicated clearly. I'll take them every time.

To find out how Cayton Communications can help you with your documentation, just send us a note.


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