Authoring a Technical Writing Guide

We’ve all created style manuals for our documentation projects. Style manuals are incredibly useful, making sure that the documentation is consistent and correct for the project. A well constructed style guide covers everything from formatting to standard terms and usage, and everything in between.

But what if a project team has to start from scratch? What if that project team has no experience with documentation projects? What would you tell them? How would you explain the processes and practices of clear communication to that team? Shea Writing and Training Solutions found themselves in that position. Their guide, “Technical Writing Guide to Clear Communications” was the result. The award-winning guide presents activities and content from audience analysis to editing techniques. Peggy Krohn describes how Shea Writing and Training Solutions, Inc. created their guide, and what they learned doing so at the Program Meeting on Tuesday, September 10, 2013.

Peggy Krohn describes the project: In 2007, a Shea client requested technical writing training for his team. Our senior editor and I agreed and then, in a quiet moment queried one another, “What materials do you have?” “I don’t have materials, I thought you did.” With great humility and a dash of hubris, we began writing the participant guide (content and practice activities). Thus, the first edition of our Technical Writing Guide to Clear Communications was authored and sent to press — well, sent to a printer and stapled. Six years later, we professionally produce a guide of 150 pages covering audience analysis to editing techniques and everything that happens in between. We remain humble about our guide, because every time we open it we find something to change!

Peggy Krohn is an expert in technical documentation and end-user training design, development and delivery. She has 25 years of consulting experience in the service sector for documentation design, instructional design, and organizational performance improvement. Her experience is in many industries: oil/gas, energy, legal, software/hardware, finance, government, telecommunications, academia, medical, paper, chemical, and manufacturing. Peggy is Vice President, Operations at Shea Writing and Training Solutions, Inc.