In addition to using plain language and effective visual strategies, every professional and technical writer should strive to achieve writing that embodies the following principles.

  • Honest: Your trustworthiness in communication reflects not only on you personally but on your organization or discipline. Is it any surprise that the Society of Technical Communication discusses honesty in its code of ethical principles?

“We seek to promote the public good in our activities. To the best of our ability, we provide truthful and accurate communications. We also dedicate ourselves to conciseness, clarity, coherence, and creativity, striving to meet the needs of those who use our products and services. We alert our clients and employers when we believe that material is ambiguous. Before using another person’s work, we obtain permission. We attribute authorship of material and ideas only to those who make an original and substantive contribution.” (excerpted from on April 5, 2022)

  • Accurate: Is the information true? Verifying information can take many forms, from interviewing subject-matter experts to searching online for credible facts. With the vast amount of information available to us online, it may seem that fact-checking should be a simple, quick task. In actuality, more is not always better when it comes to verifying information. Some information is highly disputable, with different numbers or spellings available across the Internet. To locate accurate information, you may need to check dates and financial figures, spellings of names, and the truth of claims and statements. To do this, you’ll need to ask a series of questions to ensure that the facts you are checking are from a trustworthy source.

    • How do we know this fact is true?
    • Who said it and how do they know it?
    • What is the original source of the information?

For some surprising information about what fact-checkers don’t do, you may enjoy this short (approx. 4 minutes) video. (And to learn even more about fact-checking, consider working through this tutorial from the University of Arizona Libraries.)

As noted in the video, you may want to find more than one source that supports the information you need to verify. Also, you may want to keep on hand a list of sources that you can turn to for reliable information. And if you are not certain if it’s worth the time to fact-check information, keep in mind that errors of fact make readers wonder how much of the whole document they can trust. In other words, one error can harm the credibility of the entire publication.

  • Accessible. At the very least, the design of your document should be useful, easy to navigate, and with all information easy to locate. Specifically, websites and e-learning documents must meet ADA (American Disabilities Act) laws for accessibility. If thinking about accessibility feels new to you, let me assure you–you are more familiar with accessible features than you may think! If you’ve used a sidewalk ramp, eyeglasses, or video subtitles, you’ve used assistive technology. As document authors, you need to be aware of the different ways you can make your documents more accessible. For example:
    • Headings – Headings effectively break up your document into organized chunks that help your reader know what to expect in each section and can help them find the information they need as fast as possible.
    • Alternate Text – Alternate text, also referred to as alt text, is the text that will be read aloud by a screen reader when it passes over an image for someone who needs visual accommodations. Alt text should tell the screen reader what the image contains in plain text (i.e. describing the image without being overly verbose).
    • Captions – Whenever there is an audio component to your document, captions or a transcript should be included to promote accessibility. Even if you don’t have any deaf or hard of hearing members in your audience, captions are used by people who have audio processing issues, people who are in loud environments, and anyone else who might enjoy them.

For more information about how you can make your documents more accessible, check out this video by Cannon.

To learn more about diverse abilities and barriers, visit the W3C’s Web Accessibility Initiative web resources.

Your primary task when making accessible documents is to ensure documents are structured correctly so that people assistive technologies can interact with your digital content. For more information about creating accessible documents, visit the National Disability Authority’s web resources.

Ideas for content on this page are inspired by Open Technical Communication by Tiffani Tijerina, Tamara Powell, Jonathan Arnett, Monique Logan, Cassandra Race; licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. (Additional contributors include David McMurrey, Steve Miller, Cherie Miller, Megan Gibbs, Jennifer Nguyen, James Monroe, Lance Linimon.)

Content about accessibility is from Understanding Document Accessibility by The Chang School, Ryerson University, licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.


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Technical Communication Across the Professions Copyright © 2022 by Crystal Baye Herald is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.