25 Random Things about Technical Writing

By George Slaughter

One of today’s digital trends is the 25 random things list. Here’s how it works: Friends e-mail you (or, if you’re a member of Facebook, they “tag” you), requesting that you create a list of 25 random things about yourself. You then send your list to five friends, inviting or tagging them to create their own lists to send to five of their friends.

Here’s a list of 25 random things about technical communication.

  1. “Technical writing” is a misnomer.
  2. A recipe for chocolate chip cookies is just as technical as a software manual.
  3. Quality writing is quality writing, regardless of genre.
  4. Quality writing is quality writing, regardless of deliverable.
  5. Content always trumps presentation.
  6. Never underestimate the value of a good style guide.
  7. Better to get the content right with a less sophisticated documentation tool than get the content wrong with a more sophisticated tool.
  8. Documentation tools such as XML are worthless if you get the content wrong.
  9. When you must spell out an acronym that you don’t know, visit www.acronymfinder.com.
  10. Not all companies use the latest or most sophisticated tools, nor will they want to.
  11. Never underestimate the value of having system access when it’s time to post your drafts for review.
  12. Production systems are worthless if you can’t deliver the finished document.
  13. When creating original content, voice dictation software can be useful—but coding that text is another issue.
  14. When starting a project, you don’t have to know everything about your product.
  15. However, you must quickly learn everything that you must know.
  16. When conducting product research, e-mail is not always your friend.
  17. Having relationships with key colleagues, whether by phone or in person, makes your job easier.
  18. Reading your draft aloud is a good way to improve it.
  19. Sometimes bribery, if used to get feedback on your drafts, is a good thing.
  20. By contrast, if you must bludgeon your reviewers, get the product manager to do it.
  21. The only appropriate response when someone finds errors in your drafts is, “Thanks, I’ll fix it right now.”
  22. Like it or not, some executives fail to understand the value of quality documentation.
  23. We as writers must show these executives the value of our work, and in language they understand.
  24. Keep asking yourself, how can you do more in less time with fewer resources—because that’s what executives are asking, particularly in these times.
  25. In the end, it’s all about working with people. Help others succeed and they will do likewise.

About the Author

George Slaughter is a writer, editor, and content strategist. His web site is georgeslaughter.com.