Build Your Technical Writing Templates

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    Templates are extremely useful for saving time and providing consistency. They are short cuts to formatting and completing your document quickly and easily. They are short cuts because you no longer have to think about how the material should be set up or what style to use for particular types of documents. Having templates not only improve the appeal of the document by standardizing the look and feel of a document, but also by presenting data in a specific structure and hence preventing readers from wasting time by questioning why the configuration or format has changed again. Use templates for charts, lists, standard operating procedures, logos, etc. Templates can take on many shapes and sizes.

    • Templates can be something similar to a form which you complete. It consists of predefined data, but may be missing certain specifics. For example, for IT, you can have particulars about a standard operating procedure or security, but have blank fields for application terms, names, or department labels. The Technical Writer merely has to insert the appropriate information into the fields to complete the form.
    • Templates can be long and complex, especially in pharmaceutical and other industries where they have to comply with regulations. Employing the use of templates here is essential. The templates used in this area save the Technical Writer an enormous amount of time and effort when creating overviews, summaries, test plans, etc.
    • Templates can be used within manufacturing industries, where documentation describes frequently used standardized hardware, material, operations, systems, or processes. A common example of repeated phrases or instructions can be easily recognized in your common package inserts, especially where safety issues are indicated.
    • Templates can be used within applications or the IT industries, where processes, code functions, methodologies, procedures, etc., are reused. The existence of templates ensures accuracy and precision. The Technical Writer does not have to rewrite a methodology when it has already been written and verified. At most, the writer will either delete or add variants to a process or just merge the template in.
    • Templates can be used in the HR departments for practices, procedures and most importantly, polices. Certain critical policies have to exist within certain HR documents and these can be simply inserted where necessary.
    • Templates can be used when creating a glossary section. If one already exists, all relevant and essential definitions can be copied and embedded where needed.
    • Templates can be used within the instructional domain for formalizing the look and feel of the manual as well as the question and exercise sections. These templates can have preset or default documented presentation approaches, styles, etc. that can be reused. The Q and A section can have templates for lists, images, notes, headers, footers, comments, etc.

    Do not confuse a template with either a macro or a style guide. Templates are pre-made formats of information. Technical Writers should create their own templates and should not be underutilized. Templates should consist of reusable information, formats, and styles to simplify their work.

    What do you think?