Technical writing Q&A with workshop expert Julia Bluff.

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How do I write a process that's not too complicated or easy?

I sometimes don't know where to start based on the reader's technical level. I don't want to insult them and I don't want to confuse them either. How do you strike a happy medium?

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That's really a question about your audience, and what they know. The first step to any technical writing endeavor is examining the audience that the writing is meant for—understanding what they know and what they don't know. Of course, if your writing is designed for a general audience, then you could have a wide range of technical abilities—so there's a bit of a challenge there.

That said, it's hard to make technical writing "too easy." And people usually aren't insulted if they can understand the process you're describing quickly and well. Of course, if IKEA instructions are any indication, the sorts of things that you think are easy could feel very challenging to someone else. Try to produce something that everyone in your intended audience's technical spectrum—from the novice to the technically astute—can understand and reproduce.

In 10 years of writing with iFixit, no one has ever told us they felt insulted because our repair guides underestimated their technical capabilities.

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Dennis Bishop will be eternally grateful.