Tools and methods to achieve consistency in technical documentation

Fanny Bischoff, Emeline Picart, Carlie Rames

July 2014


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.

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Technical writers and translators: a win-win relationship?

Fanny Bellaïche, Juliette Massardier and Marielle Morizot

August 2014


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.

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Challenges of harmonizing technical writing styles

Amélie Allard, Tyffanie Boniou, Camille Hubert, and Nicolas Philippe

July 2013


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.

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