Legal Requirements for Technical Writing
by Bradley Nice, Content Manager at ClickHelp — all-in-one help authoring tool
Why is it so important to keep in mind that technical documentation should be compliant with legal requirements? This question is not often discussed, but it needs attention. It is a common practice in the world that technical documentation should warn the readers about any dangers that may be caused by the use of the product described. In some countries, the legal regulations are very strict, in others, they are softer. But still, technical documentation should contain a warning if the use of the product might be dangerous. In fact, it is not only the law that makes companies do it. It is ethics as well. The company`s image is always better when it takes care of its clients. So, technical writers should always think of how their writing may affect both sides: the customers and the company.
What is going to happen if you fail to warn the clients about the potential dangers while using the product? First of all, that might affect the customer`s health and life. As a result, it might lead both sides to court. That is what every technical writer should prevent. The following things should be explained in the documentation:
- How to use the product in a proper way
- What risks the proper use of the product may have
- What risks may occur in case of misuse of the product
Definitely, the warning section should be different from other sections. Here is how to attract the attention of clients to it:
- The use of specific colors and fonts will help you make this section prominent.
- The use of specific icons will enable readers to find it quickly.
- Choose a suitable position for this section. It should be easy-to-find and at hand.
- Include relevant warnings only. It is a bad idea to use all the possible warnings as some of them may be ridiculous and uninformative.
- To use clear language for warnings. Ambiguity, in this case, may even worsen the situation as readers do not understand what is meant.
ANSI Z535.4 standard is widely used for safety labeling. According to it the signal word should inform the readers about the level of danger seriousness.
- DANGER indicates an imminently hazardous situation which, if not avoided, will result in death or serious injury. This signal word is to be limited to the most extreme situations.
- WARNING indicates a potentially hazardous situation which, if not avoided, could result in death or serious injury.
- CAUTION indicates a potentially hazardous situation which, if not avoided, may result in minor or moderate injury. It may also be used to alert against unsafe practices.
Here you can find more information about ANSI Z535.4 Labels
That is great when your writing may help someone avoid injuries or death. That is why one should pay enough attention to this aspect of writing. It is saving someone in a way =) And how do you write warnings and cautions? Please leave your comment below.
Have a nice day!
Bradley Nice, Content Manager at ClickHelp.com — best online documentation tool for SaaS vendors