Tag Archives: Thanksgiving

They’ll thank you when…

It’s Thanksgiving week here in the U.S. As a blogger it’s tough not to succumb to the temptation to write the dreaded (and trite) 2,387 things I’m thankful for.

readingLet’s turn that listicle on its head.

As a technical writer, what can you do that will make your readers thankful?

Here’s my list.

Tell them a story. Mark Baker asserts that we should see ourselves as story providers rather than content providers. He’s right. Stories resonate with people in a way that simple content, or information, simply can’t. In technical writing, the story’s hero is your reader, who’s trying to accomplish something or learn something.

Give them more than just a narrative. A narrative might be mildly interesting, but a story is more than that. A story is a narrative with facts, or data, baked into it. In technical writing, the data supports the story of your reader meeting their objective.

Provide everything they need, and not one iota more. Don’t leave out any essential data. Don’t make the task appear simpler than it really is. But don’t pack your story with extraneous stuff that captures the fancy of your subject-matter expert.

Write in the proper tone. This will vary depending on who you’re writing for. Crisp and professional for the IT specialist who’s setting up a network; more casual for the weekend warrior who’s assembling a backyard barbeque grill. A tone that works for American readers might not work for Asian readers. It’s all about the fundamental rule of technical writing: know your audience.

Do those things, and your readers will be grateful, even if they never say “thank you” to your face. And you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that you’ve provided something of value.

What would add to this list?

You can get anything you want

It’s Thanksgiving time here in the U.S. — the anniversary of the misadventure that inspired Arlo Guthrie’s song, Alice’s Restaurant. Despite what Guthrie says, it’s not just a song about Alice. It’s an anthem of the anti-Vietnam War movement in the late 1960s.

It also contains some good advice for technical communicators. As a seasonal treat for you, here are links to two articles I posted a couple of Thanksgivings ago. Enjoy. Continue reading