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Writing Reader-Friendly Documents


The traditional way of writing government documents has not worked well. Too often, complicated and jargon-filled documents have resulted in frustration, lawsuits, and a lack of trust between citizens and their government. To overcome this legacy, we have a great responsibility to communicate clearly.

Studies show that clearly written regulations improve compliance and decrease litigation. Writing that considers our readers' needs improves the relationship between the government and the public it serves. Clear writing reduces the burden on the public. It also reduces our burden because we don't have to deal with the consequences of unclear communication.

How can we be better writers?

We believe that the most important goals are these--

• Write for your reader
• Write clearly
• Write in a visually appealing style

The next several pages summarize some of the best techniques to achieve these three goals. Following the summary, you'll find detailed suggestions for applying these techniques to your writing. Write for Your Reader

Writing for your readers sends a message that you have considered who they are and what they need to know. When you communicate a concern for your readers' needs, they are more likely to be receptive to your message.

When your document is plainly written, your readers are more likely to--

• Understand what you want and take appropriate action • Focus on key information
• Believe that you are concerned with their needs

Identify your audience

Identify your audience early and think about why the reader needs to read the document. Identify people who will be interested, even if they are not directly affected. Write to everyone who is interested, not just to technical or legal experts. Keep in mind the average reader’s level of technical expertise.

Organize to meet your reader's needs

People read documents to get answers. They want to...

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