7 powerful tips to write tech articles
Writing for tech? We have 7 powerful tips to write tech articles so any reader can understand you.
7 powerful tips to write tech articles
If you are starting a career as a tech copywriter or would like to step up your writing game, this article will most likely be of interest to you. Here are 7 powerful tips for writing successful articles for the tech industry at large. Let's dive in!
1. Write a lot. Practice makes perfect
There is a general rule for writing. If you want to write better, you better write more. That is a skill tree that you need to keep learning forever. Aldous Huxley even noted the lack of young writer geniuses compared to music ones. There are not a lot of legends of writers completing their master oeuvre at 3 years old; compare that to the stories about Mozart.
You don’t need to be Emily Dickinson or Ernest Hemingway to write tech articles. But better prose has never hurt anybody.
As a rule of thumb, write in the correct style (you know what I mean, don’t get all postmodern on me) and use active voice with action verbs.
Choose your words carefully. Avoid excessive jargon, slang, and vulgar language. You might sprinkle your articles with some when you test the ropes. For starters, using plain language will get you where you want.
Some necessary skills for a tech writer:
- Be a lifelong learner. Writing involves communicating complex concepts in straightforward terms. You know, or you learn them, no shortcuts there.
- Be flexible. Jack of all trades, master of none, but better than a master of one. Slowly but surely you will become an expert on various subjects.
- Be open. Contribute to organizations and open source communities: teaching is learning.
- Understand the use of proper English: tenses, spellings, and basic grammar.
- Know how to explain things clearly and simply.
- Be patient. Writers are made, not born. Practice a lot. Start writing today; you have a lot to catch up on, we all have.
- Develop an eye for detail.
- Be humble. We get better only while being open to feedback.
After finishing an article, carry out a careful review and add an extra pair of eyes if possible. Don’t test your docs. Let someone else take a peek and give you feedback. We have a tendency to miss our mistakes, grab any coworker, it works best if they are not an expert, and let them give you honest criticism.
Be prepared for revisions and rewrites. Don’t fall in love with your first draft. You’ll probably create multiple versions of documents. The effort pays off in writing.
2. Keep things brief and simple
As I said before, keep things brief with a conversational style.
You have to capture the reader’s interest as soon as possible, so avoid a dull first paragraph.
Presume less on the patience of the reader. The average manager can read at must an A4 before his attention wanders. So write as if you were talking to a high schooler.
Keep words short where possible, but use occasional polysyllabic words to help the rhythm. Never use abbreviations without defining them; people will hate you for it.
Be funny. I know it’s not that easy, but a friendlier tone can ease up any subject.
3. Work with a framework
Work with a framework, then remove it. What do I mean? Introduction, summary, conclusion, what? Why? Who? Where? When? How? I’m talking about high school scaffolding. There’s a reason academic essays have these divisions. Use them, then hide them to help with the flow.
As for ideas, put things in context and give the big picture. Create depth and breath and flow naturally from one idea to the next. Think of each paragraph as an ideal unit. They work together but should be solid enough on their own, think of steps on a staircase.
If needed, use a visual aid. It could be a table of contents for a long piece, screenshots, graphics when needed, or even code inserts if you are talking to someone able to understand it. If not, explain.
The easiest way to apply this tip is to plan your document by making an outline. Then fill it up with the necessary information and graphics you gathered.
Remember, visual formatting matters: a wall of text is hard to read. Format your document according to the style guide if you have one. If not, consider creating one.
4. Convey emotion, talk about what you love
When writing, remember to convey emotions. We are often trained to write like a disembodied entity without any passion. Forget about that.
To write well about technical subjects, one has to be interested in them. Study up and be aware of the human feelings and interests behind the technology. There is plenty to find there.
Do you feel low on references? You might need a dip on sci-fi writers. I get goosebumps just by listening to Ray Bradbury or Isaac Asimov talking about science. Presenters like Carl Sagan or Neil Degrasse Tyson sure are role models too.
5. Research, cite, and acknowledge the sources
You might have guessed it, but research is essential for writing unless you are a subject matter expert, so conduct thorough research about the topic at hand.
Cite and acknowledge sources always: especially in tech, academia, and science.
Be sure to compliment good work in others. Acknowledgment is free and sets you on a cooperative mindset we all benefit from. On the other hand, avoid petty criticism. Review your negativity bias for a brighter look at life.
Cite all quotations and sources of any information as if writing a scientific paper, which pleases the authors and shows that you’ve done your homework. Citations are free, you know?
6. Understand and help your audience
Before starting your first draft, be sure to analyze and understand who your readers are. You can define a target audience as beginners and experts on some topics that are not the same public.
Here are some questions to guide your planning:
- Who are my readers?
- What are their characteristics?
- What are their goals?
- What are their expectations?
- What do they need?
- Where will they be reading?
- When will they be reading?
- Why will they be reading?
- How will they be reading?
On the other hand, think about user experience. UX is as important in writing as anywhere else. Another set of questions appears in this case:
- Is it accessible?
- Is it easy to navigate?
- Is it legible?
Legibility is not only about good formatting. It is also about word choice and definitions. Decision-makers are often not developers or tech-savvy experts, so consider writing for the tech layperson.
- Imagine explaining your topic to a person you know.
- Use analogies, comparisons, and examples.
- Be mindful of the words you use, avoid jargon, and find simpler terms.
- Start broad to set up a foundation and then narrow it down.
- Break up your content into manageable chunks.
- Divide one idea per paragraph.
- Create a rhythm to make information glow.
- Your audience is not reading a printed page, so don’t treat them like it.
- Paragraphs should be short and limited to a single key point.
These are the six fundamental tips, but one encompasses all of them in a time frame: how to write articles quickly.
7. Write under fire: writing articles quickly
Finally, brought to you directly from a Master Class, there are a set of tips for writing articles quickly. Honoring its spirit, I won’t dwell on explanations:
- Keep a list of ideas handy: you’ll never know when writer’s block will hit.
- Eliminate distractions. You don’t work better while multitasking. I can bet on that.
- Research efficiently. I’ve been on research paralysis, and sometimes I just need to limit the amount of information.
- Keep it simple, direct, and concise. You know what I mean.
- Try bullet points to organize your ideas. Quick, efficiency, fast, wow!
- Edit after writing, kill your darlings, easy as that.
- Set a timer, practice for 30 minutes, and see how much you can get done. You’ll be surprised.
I know we talked about some of them before, but they were worth revisiting, even if I stole you 30 seconds of your time.
In any case, writing needs you to keep educating yourself. Take writing courses, attend conferences, do workshops, watch online classes, and read writing books.
Finally, why should you write? Because the best way to learn is to teach. At the same time, you provide value where you work while building your own. You practice your critical thinking and learn effective communication, a valuable skill. Also, potential recruiters can see clear documentation of your past work.
So tech writers can write for general readers, and they should. This can help expand your online presence, introduce newbies to your technology or software, or even help tech experts you write for.
At Awkbit, we take writing seriously. That’s why we have an ever-expanding blog where we try to simplify tech content for any interested layperson. Tech literacy helps us all, making users aware of the options available and understanding what’s happening behind the scenes. If any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, we can see its source with writing.
Are you willing to step up your writing game?