Let’s say a marketing management company generates thousands of technical content revolving around different departments. The main purpose of technical content is to help people use a specific product. Thus, each piece of technical content is supposed to have the same format, style, and consistency. Wouldn’t it be difficult and time-consuming for editors to check every copy before publishing the content? Also, there’s no guarantee that the content will still be error-free, right? This is where the role of structured authoring comes into play.
Structured authoring makes the whole process of technical writing 10X easier. Before checking out the impacts of structured authoring on technical writing, let’s understand what structured authoring exactly is.
What Exactly Is Structured Authoring?
Structured authoring is a methodological approach to writing perfect technical content in a short span of time. You can stop worrying about the format or style of your technical content. All you have to do is mark up the content using the structured approach according to what it represents semantically.
The top four characteristics of structured authoring are:
- It is primarily based on XML.
- Structured content is categorized with semantic tags. These tags determine what type of content it represents. Let’s say it’s an instruction for your business development firm. You can represent this content with the semantic tag ‘procedure’ instead of creating a numbered list.
- The rules related to content and structure is enforced in software with Schema or DTD. These rules determine whether a section would consist of title, procedure, steps, or a numbered list.
- Structured authoring is not concerned with formatting. You can format the content using stylesheets like CSS and XSLT.
Now that you know the features, it will be easier for you to understand how structured authoring works on technical content. So, let’s check out the top three ways structured authoring can improve technical writing.
Top Three Ways Structured Authoring Can Improve Technical Content
As mentioned before, structured authoring lets you organize data in technical documents consistently. For instance, consider a residential address. The structure of the address usually consists of an employee name, house number, city, street, and ZIP code. Structured authoring validates the structure and organizes the details automatically.
Makes it easier to re-use technical content
Content re-use is one of the biggest advantages of structured authoring. Who likes to create and re-create the same content over and over again? Nobody. It is not only a sheer waste of time but is also responsible for reduced productivity. Structured authoring lets you create content once in one place. Then you can add it to multiple publications according to your requirements.
Here’s how structured authoring lets you re-use your technical content:
- Content is created in small chunks which are also known as topics.
- Smaller topics are re-used first and more easily. A good content management system can help you keep track of all the topics in the content.
- Smaller chunks of paragraphs require fewer modifications. Let’s say you have to write the basic instructions for unpacking a box for different models. The instructions would remain the same. However, you may have to create new topics to add some new features.
In structured authoring, you develop a piece of technical content and store it in your central source control. Use that content for related products. Let’s say you have one copy of ‘Terms and Conditions’ stored in the source control. You can just add that to other PDF files such as ‘Assignment Help Guidelines & Tips.’
Helps you focus on content rather than on formatting
Structured authoring lets you remove formatting tags from your content. You need to assign the formatting elements to content and the formatting is implemented automatically throughout the content. Technical content writers often find it difficult to focus on the quality of content while formatting at the same time. With structured documentation systems, you can get the formatting done automatically.
Here’s how structured content takes care of the formatting elements:
- Structured authoring formats the content based on its position in the document’s structure.
- For instance, a title in the sub-section of your content may use the style ‘Heading 2.’ However, it uses the style ‘Heading 1’ for a title in the first level section of your content.
- An XML schema can let you take care of more specific tags like <conbody> and <concept.> XML tags and attributes should consist of the document’s metadata so that the presentation can be easily separated from the technical content.
It is important to separate the content from visual display if you want to repurpose your content in multiple ways. Structured XML can help you separate content from format easily. You don’t have to remember all the formats to apply in the content. Let the process of structured authoring format the technical content automatically.
Simplifies the process of translation
Let’s say you need to translate your content ‘Technical Assignment Help Guidelines & Samples.’ For that, you need a structured XML format that a translation memory can handle. Structured XML formats make the translation process easier to manage. Nowadays, all efficient brands have the ability to re-use the same content in different languages. The manual translation process can be time-consuming. Thus, you can use structured authoring to simply the process.
Here’s how structured content simplifies the translation process:
- Structured authoring streamlines the management of translations and enhances the editor’s experience.
- It makes sure the localized content follows the same format as the original content.
- You have to implement a CMS with a flexible content model to set up the translated content easily. You can keep the presentation consistent and re-use any images as in the original content.
According to Scott Abel’s benchmarking survey, 44% of companies are using structured XML content. The number is expected to increase considerably, owing to all the benefits structured authoring provides. Whether you want to translate your technical document or create similar pieces of content, structured authoring can make it way easier for you.
Writing technical content is no easy feat. From the structure to the formatting, each part of technical content is not only time-consuming but also monotonous. Structured authoring, however, defines and enforces content structure. It helps the technical writer adhere to an appropriate structure throughout the content. It will also warn you if you tend to move away from the defined structure of your content. All in all, structured authority is what you need to develop a well-structured & well-formatted technical content.