Many of the typical tips for writing also apply when writing about technology.
- Be clear and direct.
- Know your audience.
- Avoid jargon.
Of course, this is easier said than done, and writing about information technology presents a number of challenges. How do you provide enough technical details without confusing people? How do you convey technical information without resorting to language understood only by IT experts?
These guidelines are intended for a variety of situations, from email communications to websites.
Know your audience
Before you start to write an email announcement, webpage, or other materials, determine your audience. When writing about IT, the key question is often this one: Is this for an IT audience or a general audience? You need to know your audience to help you establish the appropriate tone and determine the level of detail for your message.
At Rutgers, here are some of the typical audiences for webpages, email announcements, and other IT communications:
- Rutgers IT staff
- IT Leadership Council
- Users of a specific service (Box, Rutgers Connect, etc.)
Additionally, your audience may be limited to a specific location or unit.
Once you’re clear about your audience, you will be in a better position to decide on the content of your message and distribution channels (email, social media, webpage, etc.).
Create easy-to-scan content
Provide easily scannable content to keep your readers’ attention. Use these techniques:
- Break your information into “chunks” that can be easily accessed and comprehended.
- Use heads and subheads to partition your content.
- Use blurbs and bulleted lists.
Words such as audit, client, domain, machine, and package may have a specific meaning to IT staff and an entirely different meaning outside of IT. Unless you’re writing for an IT audience, avoid specific IT language whenever possible.
Simplify Rutgers IT
Aim to simplify IT at Rutgers for your audience. Terms like ESD, TD, and UCS may be familiar to people within IT at Rutgers, but they’re confusing to others.
In general, whether for an IT audience or a more general audience, avoid mentioning more than two organizational layers within OIT, and do not use acronyms for OIT’s divisions (i.e., EI, ESD, etc.) or subdivisions (IdM, TD, etc.).
Do not abbreviate UCM (for unit computing manager) and UCS (unit computing specialist). Spell them out instead so people can understand the full meaning. Outside of IT, those acronyms don’t mean anything.
Explain the “why”
In email announcements and other communications, explain why a specific action is being taken. This is especially important when we’re decommissioning a service, providing a new service, or planning maintenance.
Write a high-level explanation that emphasizes what is being fixed or improved. Here are some examples:
- For data center maintenance and improvements: This work will reduce the risk of outages and make it easier to conduct data center maintenance without major interruptions.
- For the choice of Canvas: The move from multiple systems to a single, university-wide learning management system (LMS) will foster collaboration, reduce complexity, and simplify the learning and teaching experience for Rutgers students and faculty.
Write clear subject lines
When drafting an email, always include a proposed subject line. Subject lines should be clear, direct, and specific; when applicable, use phrases (like “action required”) to get the reader’s attention.
Proofread your content
Don’t send out an email announcement or publish a webpage without proofreading your content.
Use a mix of these methods:
- Use the spelling and grammar check available in various word-processing tools.
- Run your content through Grammarly, a free tool for improving writing.
- Ask a colleague to review your content.