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Technical Writing - One Baby Step At A Time by Albert Kelly

Article Author Biography
Technical Writing - One Baby Step At A Time by
Article Posted: 01/20/2013
Article Views: 38
Articles Written: 180
Word Count: 669
Article Votes: 0
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Technical Writing - One Baby Step At A Time

In your career as a technical writer you'll be writing a number of procedures. Some procedures will be easy. Others will be complex. Today, I'm going to show you a formula that will let you handle even the most complex of procedures with ease. First, let's define the term "procedure." In simple terms, a procedure is a series of sequential steps that produce a desired result. The key word here is sequential. For the procedure to be successful, the steps or actions have to be performed in order. We perform a number of procedures every day. From making the coffee to driving to work to printing a document. Each of these involves a sequence of steps. If these steps are not in order then you will not get the desired result. How to Handle Complex Procedures The technique I'm going to share with you today can be applied to all types of procedures: simple or complex. But it's particularly useful when writing complex procedures. Let's assume that you are a technical writer for the commercial airplane manufacturer , Boeing. You work with a team of technical writers and are assigned to the new Boeing airplane - the 787 Dreamliner. Your team is developing the maintenance manual for the airplane. This maintenance manual will be used by airlines all over the world when they buy the new 787 Dreamliners. Your task is to write a procedure on how to change the engine oil when performing routine aircraft maintenance. Now this isn't like changing the engine oil in your car where you pop open the hood, check the engine oil level with a dip stick and pour more oil. Changing the engine oil of a jet engine is a fairly complex procedure. You start off by breaking down this complex procedure into three steps: Preparing the airplane to change the engine oil Changing the engine oil Things to do after the engine oil has been changed This is your starting point. Next, you tackle the first step - "Preparing the airplane to change the engine oil." Under this you would make a list of actions that need to be performed to prepare the airplane for the procedure. You would talk about checking hydraulics, checking electrical power, how many people are needed for this procedure, equipment needed, safety issues and the paperwork involved in this procedure. Once the airplane is ready , you would get into step two - "Changing the engine oil." These are the actions that need to be performed to change the engine oil. These steps would involve the physical action of opening the engine cover, accessing the various components and changing the engine oil. After the engine oil has been changed, you would write about step three - "Things to do after the engine oil has been changed." This would involve returning the airplane to its original condition. Here you would write about disposing of the old oil, returning all the components to their original positions and performing any necessary tests. You would constantly be working with engineers and Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) to get all the information. But the idea is to break a complex procedure into small steps. Notice how I broke down this procedure into a sequence of steps. I talked about things to do before changing the engine oil, changing the engine oil and things to do after changing the engine oil. I've just showed you one way to break down a procedure. You can come up with your own plan to break down a procedure. The idea is to break down a complex lengthy procedure into small manageable chunks. Then tackle each small chunk one at a time. This makes life easier for you. But there is someone else whose life must be made easier by your procedure. In fact, if your procedure does not accomplish this then you have failed as a technical writer. Who is this person? Read next week's issue to find out.

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