How to Choose the Best Technical Writing Course
You’ve decided to search for a course to help boost your technical writing expertise—congratulations! Although an exciting process, it can also feel a bit daunting. There are so many options available for tech writers.
So how can you avoid getting lost in a mountain of browser tabs and notes and confusion (or pull yourself out if you’re already there)? Our advice is to create a list of specific criteria to guide your search.
Every team and individual will have their own specific needs, but there are some overarching elements that should be included in any course worth its salt. We’ve compiled this guide to lay them out and help you navigate this process of selecting an online course and improving your technical communication skills.
Technical writing course evaluation criteria
1. The three S’s
It’s critical to review the curriculum of any course in which you’re considering enrolling to become a better tech writer. Not just a general summary – the actual lesson names and specific topics covered! Any reputable training company should provide this. Some online courses focus solely on certain elements of tech writing.
Look for a holistic review of technical writing skills that includes these three major areas:
- Substance: Choosing the correct details and the correct amount of detail to include in any technical document is one of the principal challenges as a writer. Look for a course that addresses this topic. For example, an audience analysis should help guide your substance and should be part of any course.
- Structure: Online course content must give you guidance about how to effectively create a framework as you plan your technical documents.
- Syntax: Syntax refers to the linguistic elements and techniques you use to present information in a technical document. Technical writing is specialized rhetoric, so you’ll need specific guidance about appropriate language.
Our technical writing courses are available for individuals and groups and include instructor feedback.
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2. Document-specific guidance
To really feel secure in your skills as a technical writer, there are certain documents with which you need to be familiar. In order to get the most out of your technical writing course, you want to be sure that these technical document formats are reviewed in detail.
Some of the most common technical documents include:
- Instruction manuals
- Procedural documents
- Standards documents
- User guides
- Project plans
- White papers
No course can cover all of these exhaustively, but make sure that there is some information on specific types of documentation.
3. Replicable, flexible technical writing process
Along with this document-centric guidance, look for a course that also includes more general information about writing processes that can be applied to any type of business communication or technical document.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to technical documentation. You need a course that also provides a flexible framework that encourages critical thinking and discernment in your approach to technical writing. An audience analysis, an understanding of purpose, and a formal planning process are crucial when becoming a strong technical writer.
Templates can be helpful, but they do not help with the critical thinking part of planning or creating a document. If you don't know how to write a technical document, a template will not help.
4. Individualized feedback
A course that provides detailed information about technical writing topics is a great foundation, but most integration and tangible skill gains come from receiving personalized feedback on your writing.
Most of us learned writing in an academic setting. Business writing—and technical writing specifically—is a totally different beast. Although you or your team have probably picked up many skills on the job, it is invaluable to receive truly individualized and tailored guidance.
This personalized feedback aids in the absorption and application of course materials because you learn what specific course lessons you should focus on more, and you get a chance to practice your new skills as you learn them.
Remember, this feedback should be holistic and touch on all areas of your technical writing, not just your grammar.
5. Varied delivery and learning tools
The last major element you should consider when evaluating technical writing courses is the delivery style of the course information. A reputable course with a strong pedagogical foundation should include a variety of learning tools and methods.
These might include, but are certainly not limited to:
- Written text
- Video explanations
- Click-through slides
- Interactive quizzes
Having a mix of instruction methods and levels of interaction ensures that you stay engaged. You want a course that is thorough yet efficient and takes into account the needs of busy, high-performing professionals.
An important investment
Whether you're looking at new job opportunities or just wanting to improve your tech writer skills, choosing and enrolling in a technical writing program is an investment in your professional development, communication skills, and career. It’s also an investment of time and money. Putting in the due diligence upfront to ensure you choose the right course for you and your needs is so important!
We’re here to help as you embark on this exciting professional journey of a technical writing career. Take your technical writing skills to the next level by enrolling in one of Instructional Solutions' technical writing courses. Become a strong tech writer through engaging lessons and individualized feedback. We also have advanced courses available for individuals and groups.
Write any technical document in our practicum course and receive instructor feedback and coaching.
Learn More About our Technical Writing Course