Separate the user’s needs from the solution

In a conversation about your user’s needs, it’s natural to start throwing out solutions almost immediately. Someone brings up an aspect of the user’s needs, and someone knows how to answer that aspect. But suddenly, that one aspect is all you’re talking about. You’ve just blinkered your view of the user to whatever can be …

Writing from the ground up

Writing begins with awareness of the single word, then moves up. What can a word mean, and what does it actually mean in its current context? Does the sentence make its point as clearly as possible? Does the paragraph come together as a single point? Is it in the right place Does the whole document tell …

Redefine your audience through the gaps

When users find a gap in your documentation – some jump from A to C that gets negative feedback – don’t just fix it. Ask yourself how it got there. Gaps happen because: Someone didn’t think users needed the topic. This demonstrates a misunderstanding of the audience.someone didn’t think about the topic at all. This …

This isn’t the job you were hired to do

When you start a new job, you can’t really work without a mental image of the job: “This is my role. This is what I should be doing and how I should be doing it.” But that image is about 90% wrong (yes, I made that number up), and you need to let go of it …

Quick writing tip: What’s the default, and why?

As a technical writer, one of the most important questions you can ask yourself is “what are the default values of the choices a user can make, and why”. For example, if an option is disabled by default, what does that tell you about the average user and their workflow? Are you trying to protect …

I Wonder That You Will Still Be Writing; Nobody Reads You

Agile got (at least) one thing right: stop writing documents no one’s ever going to read. If you want to honestly assess what will or won’t be read – and therefore what should or shouldn’t be written – you should answer some basic questions. We can divide these questions into two types: 1. Content questions: …