1. Understanding Style

How to Improve Your Style

An effective writing style is not acquired magically - you can improve your style through study, practice, and constructive criticism. The elements of good technical writing are not mysterious unknowns; good style can be learned.

Study Good Writing

An excellent way to improve your style is to read and study good writing. Appendix A, "Recommended Reading," lists several dozen books worthy of your professional attention. Study the literature in your area of specialization - what works? what doesn't? why?

As you analyze examples of effective technical writing, you'll find that the writers delivered appropriate information by presenting the material:

Work With an Editor

If you are fortunate enough to work at a site with an editorial staff, take every opportunity to have your work edited. A good editor is an invaluable partner in producing effective documentation. Your editor is the expert in your company's style and can often assist you in determining the best way to present your information to the customer.

A good editor will be familiar not only with other documentation produced at your company, but also with other documentation in your field, including that of your competitors. An editor relates to a document as an advocate for a reader, as a professional who can critique your work, and often is the "first customer" to read your document. Refer to Chapter 2, "Working With an Editor," for further discussion of the writer-editor partnership.

Attend Classes and Training

Technical writing is a recognized profession. An excellent way to improve your style is to attend classes offered by other professionals in the field. Classes are made available by: