“The simpler the better”,you have probablyheard this sentence many times. It isparticularly true in technical writing. It has been proventhat having more than seven chunksof informationor using useless information in a technical document can affect users’working memory as well as an unstructureddocument. However, there is little research on thenature of thelink between working memory and technical writing. Ourarticle examinesthe correlation between cognitive psychology and technical writing and more especially the importance of optimizing the user’s working memory when writing technical documents.To understand the impact of an alteredprocedure on the realization of a task,we conducted an experimentwhich consisted of a comparison between two drawing procedures: one which aimedat optimizingworking memory and the other which aimedat alteringit. Participants sharedtheir drawings and toldus the difficulties theyfaced for eachof the procedures. Ourresearch and theanalysis of theconducted experiment allowed us to draw the conclusionthattechnical writersshould always considertheir user’s working memory to ensure that the instructions areeasy to follow for every age and capacity range. The structure and content of documentations can help users to group information together and thus help improve their working memory while reading instructions.
Technical writing is a profession which evolves and spreads very quickly. From its beginning to today, it has increasingly been recognized as a necessary profession, and as it continues to spread around the world, new questions about its evolution appear every day. One of these questions is related to the language used for technical communication. Now that globalization is at the heart of many companies, English is increasingly used as an international language, to the point that some companies publish technical documentation in English, even though they are not English or based in an English-speaking country. This evolution obviously has consequences for the writers and the companies, who either adapt or do not. When you start writing in a language that is not your mother tongue, you have to adapt your vocabulary and use a language that everybody can understand. Also, the way you write your documentation must change, as formatting rules differ from one country to another. These changes may not be that complicated if the writer is very familiar with the target language and if the company works mainly in an English-speaker market. But what if a French company, for example, which operates in France and in foreign countries writes all of its documentation in English? Would the budget for translation change? Would training for future writers change too? But, in the case of a national company that cannot adapt very quickly to a world that speaks and trades in English, how is it possible to evolve? And what are the consequences? Are there that many differences between an English-based company and a national company?
International migration has existed throughout human history, but has
taken a new weight in today’s world with the impact of globalisation and
what is often referred to as the “refugee crisis”. The aim of this paper is
not to discuss the motives or the impact of migration but to observe how
language and literacy barriers compound the difficulties met by vulnerable
populations in modern information-oriented societies, and how these
issues are addressed by the many organizations that fight to improve the
situation of migrants.
Here, we address how barriers to information access worsen refugees’
situations and identify technical-communication-related issues in how
information is delivered as of today. Is there a case for technical
communication in ensuring the respect of human rights?
Koussai HOUSSINE, Laetitia NALY, Axel PETIT
Paris Diderot University, July 2017
Technical communicators like to perceive themselves as go-betweens who use language to bring tech objects closer to the general public. Still, is technical communication (abbr. TC throughout the article) really a two-sided coin that bridges the gap between the humanities and science, the “two cultures” in Charles Percy Snow’s terms?
The aim of this paper is twofold: testing the assumption that makes technical communicators middlemen between the two cultures, and to do so, defining the features of the language of TC by general linguistic standards. A sharp analysis of the language of technical communication provides many interesting clues to define its identity.
First, a short history of technical communication since World War II helps us understand how the language of technical communication changed with economic, social and political contexts. Second, we sketch a definition of human language in order to set an accurate theoretical frame and to define the features of the language of technical communication. Third, the discussion of a series of tests completes the qualitative analyses of the first two parts. It provides evidence to support the conclusion of this paper.
In technical documentation, content must be clear and consistent and visual layout as a whole must be uniform. Ensuring these principles makes it easier for the user to understand documentation and reinforces branding. This seems simple however achieving consistency requires a great deal of organization and effort from technical writers. The aim of this article is to present and defend various solutions for achieving consistency and improving user experience, through observations made in three different professional contexts: two computer software companies and one software and hardware company. In the first part, we will define some of the key elements that impact consistency: grammar rules, methods to address users and acute text architecture and present concrete tools and methods to improve consistency and their constraints. In the second part, we will present the most important aspect to take into account in order to find the best balance across methodologies to achieve consistency in technical documentation.
Fanny Bellaïche, Juliette Massardier and Marielle Morizot
Traditionally, technical communication leverages both technical writing and translation expertise. As both professions share some common skills and objectives, the activities of technical writers and translators are sometimes mixed up. However, they remain two clearly separated occupations and thus complement each other. Based on our working and academic experience as technical writers and translators, we are particularly aware of the importance of a balanced collaboration to align the documentation process with the requirements of today’s industry practice. Current research on the relationship between technical writers and translators mainly focuses on the study of their competences . This paper intends to go beyond the mere analysis of competences and to explore some best practices in order to bridge the gap between both professions: more specifically, to which extent can we consider the translator as a useful resource to improve the writing process? Firstly, we examine why technical writers and translators often collaborate to deliver efficient documentation in their respective fields of expertise. Secondly, we try to understand how technical writers and translators develop shared tools, such as style guides, in order to take advantage of each other’s work. Finally, we show that enhancing this relationship is not the only way to deliver professional documentation.
The arrival of Web 2.0 has changed the ways of working, especially for writers. A wide range of tools now exists, enabling different people to participate in the writing of one single document and introducing new methods of work within teams. These new work methods rely on tools that are constantly evolving. While some companies remain skeptical, others are already embracing these new practices. Either way, our position of apprentice makes us ideal observers concerning the choices made by our companies and the difficulties that the adoption of these new work methods raises. Such a change can be a real challenge, and selecting the right options to fit one particular situation can be a difficult task. We will first present the results of our research on the current state of the art in collaborative writing and how and why companies tend to use more and more collaborative writing methods. We will then explain the situation in the two companies that we work for, Atlas Copco (industrial tooling and equipment) and CNES (Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales, the French space agency), two companies which are heading in opposite directions in terms of collaborative writing. We will observe the practices, tools, processes and work dynamics involved in writing for both companies. Finally, based on what we found and observed in the first two parts, we will compare theory and reality concerning collaborative writing in companies.
This article explains how minimalism can improve the quality and effectiveness of technical documentation. In the first part, we will define minimalism and its main principles, such as action-oriented approach and topic-based authoring. In the second part, we will conduct a comparative analysis based on the technical documentation of two working environments: Societe Générale Corporate Investment Banking and HR Access. We will analyse how minimalism impacts the effectiveness and searchability of the documentation. These different minimalism approaches depend on quality criteria adopted for documentation. As a consequence, the decision to apply minimalism or not depends on the context (targeted-audience, access to users feedback). To conclude, we will identify some of the best practices to implement minimalism in any documentation department.
Amélie Allard, Tyffanie Boniou, Camille Hubert, and Nicolas Philippe
Harmonizing technical documentation content is one of the main goals of technical writers. However, harmonizing technical writing styles is one of the most difficult tasks to implement in companies. In most cases, information models, style guides and editorial styles are used to structure and guide the editorial writing process. But these editorial best practices are not sufficient to provide optimal and long-lasting editorial consistency. Indeed, in a company, it is common to find inconsistencies within a document and across several documents making up a document set. This article deals with both cases.
First, we will present the current state of the art in this domain. Then, we will focus on the writing tools and guidelines used by four software editors: Dassault Systèmes (3D Software), HR Access (Human Resources), KXEN (Knowledge Extraction Engine) and SAP (Systems, Application and Products for data processing). In the third part of the article, we will analyze the strengths and weaknesses of the tools and guidelines previously presented. Finally, we will propose solutions to improve the job of technical writers and editors in their challenge to implement a unified writing style.