Course Content
Technical Writing Certification Course
About Lesson

The Pre-writing stage is the first and most crucial stage in any technical writing production. It is essential because what you do at this stage affects the whole writing and how it develops. Success at it makes the following stages less difficult and time-consuming for you.

This stage essentially involves any activity that prepares you to write. These activities include establishing your purpose, identifying your audience, identifying your work’s scope, timing, and process, and planning out your message. As a technical writer, you will answer a series of questions regarding your document to determine and understand the focus of your documentation or book.

Establishing your purpose –

Establishing your purpose as a technical writer is very important in technical writing. You should be clear about what you intend to achieve with your documentation before thinking about the nature of your content or how you want to go about it. This will help you choose the best communication format you create with your audience. It will also help you design the appearance of your document and determine the writing tone and style you need to use. It will help you create a copy your readers understand and can easily apply.

Hence, before anything else, spend time articulating your purpose.

Ask yourself questions like – Who am I? Why am I writing this document? Am I trying to inform my audience of something or instruct them on how to se­t-up or use something? Do I need to persuade them to believe in something? Either way, what is the best communication format for achieving this purpose?

Answering these questions will help you have a clearer picture of the direction in which you should direct the project. For example, suppose your purpose is to inform your audience about a new technological or scientific development. In that case, you may write an article or research paper on the topic following all the necessary writing principles. However, suppose your purpose is to explain or instruct your audience on how to use a newly purchased high-end oven. In that case, your documentation may require diagrams, graphics, or videos, which may be immaterial in the first scenario.

Identifying your Audience –

Knowing your audience helps in determining how you will communicate your message. Remember, we identified in previous parts of this Course that you must not aim at everyone when writing your technical documentation. Again, you must write specifically for your audience and adapt your writing to meet their needs, goals, and expectations for the document.

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Chapter 2, lesson 2 provides extensive knowledge on this part of the discussion. Revisit if necessary.

Identifying the Scope, Process, and Timing –

At this stage in your technical writing production, you should ask yourself questions that will help you determine the scope, required process, and timing of your documentation – What are the key characteristics of your document? What amount of material should the document cover? Which format should be used to publish it? What are the steps that you need to follow to create the document? How long do you have to finish it up? How can you schedule your writing to meet the final deadline?

Planning out your Message-

Before starting your documentation, you should prepare a layout of exactly what you want and when to say it in your technical communication. Bubble-mapping, outlining, looping, free-writing, storyboarding, and list-making are examples of pre-writing techniques that can help you achieve this goal.

Ensure that you adopt the technique that best suits your needs – one that logically and orderly present your message without leaving out any important detail.

Tutor’s Tip: ‘Planning and preparing your technical document may be challenging and take a lot of time. It may also require a lot of cancellation and starting over, reorganization, and expansion to perfect your start. During this stage, ensure that you’re flexible enough to accommodate changes to help you have a good focus head-start. Remember also that you can always change the focus of your document provided that you have adequate to make such adjustments.’

Lesson Key Takeaway: ‘Pre-writing is the roadmap for any writing, and the purpose is to help the writer determine the focus of their documentation or book. It is essential as it plays a significant role in determining the project’s outcome.’