• Have Mollerup posted an update 3 months, 1 week ago

    Take some tips from technical writing that will make your ideas clear and persuasive in the new reading environment of the net.

    Print media puts the reader in the passenger’s seat. What if you do not want a character to die? What if you don’t like the direction the story has had? Traditional reading is linear–you start at chapter one and you go to the end, without detours in between.

    Instruction manuals have always been different. Who reads instruction manuals from beginning to end? Instead you dip involved with it, try something, and when that doesn’t appear to work, flip a few pages backward or forward and try again.

    Now the internet has turned into a huge manual where in fact the reader can maneuver around at will–technology has stolen authorial control. You must expect your readers to jump around. To be successful, whatever you write for the net has to follow exactly the same three rules that technical writers use:

    Write in Chunks

    Readers pick and choose. Understand that write for us technology isn’t expecting a story–they have specific goals. Points need to be self-contained and clearly marked to help them find what they’re looking for and move on. Respect your reader’s time–don’t make them eat the sundae when all they need is the cherry.

    Follow a Structure

    You can structure your articles by category, rank, location–but there has to be a structure. By organizing your information you are giving your reader a tool that lets them find what they’re looking for and skip what they don’t need. If you can’t look for a structure that works, you should define your points more clearly.

    Connect it Together

    You can’t force your reader to follow the path you’ve set for them, but you can give them access to information that supports your message. Don’t be afraid to link, both to resources outside your document also to pages in it. Your role is to help them achieve their goals; point them towards resources that help them do that.

    Like technical writing, the web is about helping people find information. Adopt a number of the principals of technical writing is likely to work to make it get results.