Writing detailed documentation with attention to clarity can tenfold reader comprehension. This can accelerate your goals faster. Use these three effective strategies and tactics to maximize your efficiency.
Method 1: Ease Them In
Guide your reader through complex material by first setting context with clear structure.
A sure path forward invites your reader in and helps them engage with the material better. Know that people skim material first before committing to your read. Your aim is to capture attention with a strong headline or title, get them to read your first sentence, the next, and so on.
If readers get confused from the onset, they’ll move onto something else.
Ways to Ease Them In
Consider the following to implement easing in your reader:
- Strong headline or title (subject line for email)
- A table of contents based on your document’s heading styles
- MS Word’s Navigation Pane (automated by using heading styles)
- A quick introductory paragraph
- A visual or model for context
- Numbering and bulleted lists
Method 2: Simplify the Complex
The more complicated your material, the more simplicity it needs.
Keep your document’s readability to the lowest possible grade level. Convey complex material in chunks. Limit your audience’s need to reread or to go off page (for more information) by maintaining consistent clarity throughout.
Your goal is to advance your reader’s eyes down the page and keep them engaged.
Ways to Simplify the Complex
Consider the following tactics to implement simplicity with your documentation:
- Details organized in tables and matrices
- Readability levels ideally below 7th grade (Hemingway Editor is a good resource)
- Software tools to read aloud your text while editing
- Limited use of adverbs and adjectives
- Unique sentences over repetitive ones
- Lists with consistent grammatical structure (e.g., noun verb or verb noun)
- Spelling and grammar checks
Method 3: Crisp, Clear Formatting
Readers appreciate clean, consistent formatting.
One of the best ways to keep your reader engaged is with a healthy amount of white space. Keep your paragraphs short. Use bulleted lists to draw the eye.
Be consistent with header formatting, subheadings, and indentation.
Ways to Implement Crisp, Clear Formatting
Consider the following tactics to implement good formatting:
- Heading styles for consistent structure
- Configured styles for branding
- Little-to-no direct formatting
- Bulleted lists
- Paragraph markers (Show/Hide) during editing
- Track Changes for versioning
- Version history
- Healthy breaks in spacing