Tech Writing Tips
To help ensure your writing is clear and to the point:
- Avoid long sentences.
- Make sure that subjects and verbs agree in number.
- Place modifying clauses and phrases close to their objects.
- Eliminate unnecessary words.
- Tell users what they’re supposed to achieve before you tell them how. For example:
Instead of “Click OK to delete the username,” write “To delete the username, click OK.”
- Avoid constructing sentences that begin with it is or there are.
- Place important words in the subject, verb, and object positions.
Follow these guidelines for verb tense:
- Use present tense whenever possible.
- Avoid unnecessary shifts in verb tense.
- To indicate conditional and future situations, use future tense.
Note: To test whether you’re using other tenses correctly, always try to use present tense first.
Avoid using words that express emotion or uncertainty. For example, instead of believe or feel, write think.
- e.g. consider for example
- etc. consider a more specific item or leaving off the word etc.
- i.e. consider that is
How to use the terms if, when, and whether.
- Use if where an event or condition might or might not occur.
- Use when where a condition already exists or an event is certain to occur.
- Use whether where the condition you are presenting is an alternative action or event.
When possible, avoid using the Latin term versus. Instead use an alternative such as or, as opposed to, or rather than. However, if you use the term, spell it out in text and abbreviate it (vs.) in titles and table headings.
Follow these guidelines for referring to people:
- Use who for individuals.
- Use that for a group of people.
- Avoid using which for people.
Social media has created a new way of communicating using emojis, acronyms, and the like, but avoid shortcuts to ensure the message is clear in technical communication. Articles are important. Do not drop articles (a, an, the) unless space is limited.