How To Write Engineering Documents in 5 Steps (With Tips)
Updated September 30, 2022
As an engineer, your role may require you to complete technical writing and create forms for other professionals in your industry to use and review. There are a variety of engineering documents an employer may ask you to complete, so it's important to learn about the different uses. Understanding what the technical writing process involves can help you format complex details logically and ensure that the form you create is user-friendly.
In this article, we review what an engineering document is, describe how to write one and provide a list of tips to help you create your own.
What is an engineering document?
An engineering document is a type of technical form professionals use to explain detailed concepts and information to other professionals in their field. This means that engineers typically write these documents with a specific intended audience and focus more on relaying particular data or results than making the information accessible to a wide range of readers. While engineers are responsible for developing technical information, it's important for these professionals to feel confident documenting and sharing it as well.
The types of engineering documents you might write include:
Quality assurance documents
How to write an engineering document
Here are some steps you can follow to write a technical engineering document:
1. Conduct research and make a plan
Before creating a draft of an engineering document, it's important to conduct preliminary research and make a plan or outline. This allows you to have a clear idea of the details you want to include and the information you hope to discuss, which can help make the writing process more efficient and effective. Depending on the information or project you're writing about, preliminary research may involve reviewing existing resources or analyzing the materials you have to identify what you still need to complete your technical document.
Creating a document outline can also help you prepare for the wiring process. This type of plan includes:
Deliverables and deadlines: Review the format you plan to use for the document and the date when the form is due to your employer or colleagues. This can ensure that you create a realistic writing schedule and submit your materials on time.
Materials: Perform an audit of the resources you already have. This allows you to understand what you can reference and highlight the information you still require to feel confident writing your technical engineering document.
Objectives: Outline your goals and what you hope to accomplish by completing the engineering document. Consider what the purpose of this information is and how it can benefit the reader or end user so you can stay focused on these objectives as you write.
Tools: Review the software and technical tools you may require to complete the document. Link to the style guides or websites for these tools and platforms so you can reference them easily later on.
2. Identify the document structure
Once you've conducted research and formulated a plan for the document, you can determine the structure and page design you want to use. Depending on your engineering focus, review organizational or industry requirements for the form you're writing. It's important to focus on making a technical document easy to use and creating a logical structure for other engineers to follow. Consider how you want a reader to navigate the document and the hierarchy or logical order of the information.
3. Write the content
After deciding on the style and structure, you can write the technical content and create a draft of your engineering document. The content varies depending on the purpose of the form. For example, if you're writing an engineering requirements document, writing content may involve translating information from a product requirements document into terminology other professionals in your industry can understand. The primary goal of creating this document is to create a clear and cohesive explanation or description, so it's important to remain straightforward in your writing.
4. Finalize and test
Finalize your content and test its usefulness and clarity by sharing it with engineering professionals and receiving their feedback. You can use these insights to highlight areas of the document that may benefit from revision and improvement. If you know a subject-matter expert (SME), you can have them review the document and ensure that the technical details you include are accurate and easy for other engineers to understand. Edit the document or send it to a technical editor to make sure it's logical and user-friendly.
5. Maintain and update as required
As industry developments progress, it may be beneficial to create a maintenance and updating schedule so you can update the information listed in the document as needed. This is important because it ensures your document meets industry standards and remains usable for others in your field. For example, if you're developing a guide or manual, you can implement a maintenance schedule that allows you to add updated instructions as equipment changes and improves.
Tips for writing an engineering document
Here's a list of tips you can consider when writing an engineering document:
Avoid using jargon. Although certain terms may seem like standard knowledge within the engineering field, other professionals may be unfamiliar with technical jargon, especially if they're in the beginning stages of their career. For this reason, it's important to use language that's easy to understand and applies to all members of your audience.
Use active voice. Using active voice rather than passive voice in your writing can help you keep the reader engaged and improve the clarity of your work. It can also create a more succinct document, making it faster for a professional to read, reference and understand.
Understand your audience. While you're likely creating a document for other engineers, there are instances where you may create a technical document for a wider audience, such as a guide or equipment manual. Focusing on your audience can help you ensure you use the appropriate language and terminology for your reader.
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