|Posted by LushingtonTechWriter on April 26, 2013 at 6:00 PM|
Age of information and impatience
It's no secret that this is an information age far surpassing any renaissance of enlightment of past centuries. Ironically, however; the population is simultaneously becoming less patient with the act of reading. Why? There is so much material out there that is available to be read, that when many people deign to spend time reading something of a technical nature, they want to be reading the specific material that is most relevant to their needs and most efficient in conveying the information they want to absorb. This is something to keep in mind when drafting any piece of technical writing.
Decorations are visual cues
So how do you write for an impatient audience? Obviously be clear and concise, but in this day and age that is not enough. You must provide the visual cues to enable your reader to make snap decisions on whether your material is relevant to them and, if so, what portion of the article is what they're looking for. Specific cues that are most helpful include:
- concise and informative section headers and subheaders
- tables that have been carefully constructed to present information or data in a way that supports useful associations
- visually appealing figures that clearly illustrate processes, concepts or key data trends
- text boxes set to the side of the main body to very concisely highlight key issues or conclusions
Documents that look like web pages
If it sounds like I'm recommending that you construct your text in a manner that sounds similar to web design, perhaps that is true. Our society is moving increasingly away from print media and to the more polished web layouts that once were the sole province of sophisticated magazines or expensive glossies. Elaborate colorful layouts have become cheap and easy to deploy -- anyone who constructs monotone blocks of mono-font text is probably going to miss out one some readers who might have otherwise benefited from the wisdom and information hidden therein.