Technical Writing for Project Managers

    Thomas Goebel, Director of Communications, PMI Houston

    At first, I thought that the title of this blog might be misleading. I wanted to address the technique of writing for Project Managers as clients, and I thought that people might think that it was more of a tutorial to teach Project Managers about how to do technical writing.

    In reality, it’s both.

    The casual observer might ask, “What’s the difference? You can either write for a technical audience or you can’t.” Completely understandable. After all, technical writing consists of some basic precepts or pre-conditions: you must be able to write (okay, okay … you have to pay attention to grammar and spelling), you must be succinct with a to-the-point writing style, you must be able to interpret the message your client wishes to convey, you must be accurate, and so on.

    The Project Management community, though, is a separate breed, and it behooves the writer to have some weighty experience with the animal. There is language, for starters. No, I’m not talking about jargon, although some project management lingo has worked its way into buzz speak. This language typically means something. Stakeholder, free float, life cycle – these are just a few terms that have already weaseled their way into the business lexicon. They’re there. You need to know them.

    More important is knowledge of the processes and methodologies used by disciplined project managers. If the technical writer is fortunate enough to have earned a PMP® (Project Management Professional) certification, he or she is able to understand the workflows, project sections, sub-strata, and tools (critical path determination, estimating) of the trade. And here we circle back to the specific language that has grown up with the profession to describe these various practices and controls. A thorough grasp of all these is essential when writing processes, manuals, proposals, etc.

    You are not just writing for the project manager, you’re writing for the project.