When writing technical documentation, memos, and reports, professionals like engineering design technicians need to be able to articulate their ideas in a way that can be understood even by those with different professional backgrounds, including those who come from other fields and may not have an education in engineering design technology.
This is where the importance of good communication skills comes in. By knowing how to break down challenging concepts in a way that can be easily understood, how to sequence complex information in a way that makes intuitive sense, and how to make sure their words don’t get in the way of their ideas, engineering design technicians can ensure that their work is clearly understood by their collaborators and clients.
For anyone interested in a career in engineering design technology, here are some common mistakes that can affect the quality of technical documentation and other written communications, and how to avoid them.
1. The Passive Voice Is Overused
One common mistake in technical writing is an overuse of the passive voice. The passive voice is a construction that reverses the order of action and the agent who carries it out, sometimes omitting the agent entirely.
“The problem was solved by the team,” for example, is a sentence in the passive voice. As is the sentence, “The problem was solved,” which omits the agent entirely. “The team solved the problem,” by comparison, is in the active voice.
While the passive voice might be preferable in certain situations, good technical writing should primarily make use of the active voice, as it enhances the readability and clarity of your writing.
2. Too Much Detail Can Overwhelm Readers
When writing technical documentation, you don’t want to overwhelm a reader. By providing an excess of details, it can sometimes become unclear which details are important and which are not, making it more difficult for a reader to follow along. This can be a particular issue when communicating with a more general audience, who might get lost in an abundance of technical details.
To avoid this in your career in engineering design technology, tailor the level of detail to your intended audience, and focus only on those details that are necessary to understand what you’re trying to explain.
3. Jargon Can Confuse Non-Specialists
Another common mistake that can be particularly difficult for readers who don’t have engineering training is overuse of jargon. When using terms that might be obscure to a general audience, be sure to explain to them the first time they’re used. Once again, the important thing is to keep your intended reader in mind, and not make too many assumptions about what prior knowledge they might have.
4. Professionals in Engineering Training Should Use a Clear Structure When Writing
Graduates of an engineering design technology program may know that another problem that can affect the quality of technical documentation is a messy or unfocused structure.
If a piece of technical writing jumps from one topic to another without any clear overall structure, it can be easy to lose readers. Even if they understand the individual sections of a document, they may have a hard time understanding how they’re related, or they might struggle to find the information they need.
To avoid this, work out an outline of your document before you begin writing, and use descriptive headings and subheadings. Try to structure the sections in a clear, logical progression, and explain that structure to readers early on in the document.
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