Attention management for writers, part 3: The obligatory Slack and email post, or: guilt management for writers

Until now, we’ve focused on calming the chaos of our internal voice. Now it’s time we talked about that other attention killer: external voices. And, because I like to cheat, their influence on our internal voice. One thing you can do this week: Understand the difference between objective obligations and emotions. Nothing new here Honestly, …

You’re not suffering from writer’s block; you’re suffering from indecision

That dreadful moment (hour? day?) when the words won’t come. We think of writer’s block as something that is stopping a well formed image from settling into the right words. But in reality, a writer’s block happens when our mental image is a little hazy and abstract. We can’t put it into words because words …

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 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 …

Don’t Let HR Block Your Next Technical Writer

First let me clarify – I’ve nothing against HR and their involvement in the hiring process. What I object to very specifically are two habits: letting HR choose who gets interviewed, and letting HR do the first interview and veto some of the candidates before they ever meet the technical writing team leader.

Do not Hire This Person: Technical Writers Edition

Three things some technical writers say that should serve as a warning sign that you may not want to hire them: “I only need to understand it at the UI level”. If you don’t understand how and why things happen, you’re no better than the user. Anyone can read a field label to understand what …

QA: Need Help Finding UX Faults? Ask the Technical Writers

Technical writers have a very clear goal: explain the interface. That means they notice, instantly, when it’s inexplicable. If your interface is a confusing mess with overly-complicated procedures, buttons that make no sense, important options hidden in sub-menus and related options kept a mile apart, it’s not only hard to use – it’s hard to …