Users don’t always ask the right question

Inspired by this post about the XY Problem, let’s talk about how users can approach documentation from a totally unhelpful angle. The gist of the XY Problem is that “I was doing X and it’s not working” is not the same as “I was trying to solve Y; was X the right way to do […]

Whose team are you on?

As an IC, your main structure at work is a team of other ICs. As a manager, you manage a team of ICs, but are yourself working alongside other managers. This means you and your ICs are, in effect, on two different teams. This blew my mind a little when it first happened to me. […]

Find it in the edit

Three little rules: Your first draft is not worth the keyboard it was typed on. If you’re seven rewrites in, you’re probably halfway there. If you can’t imagine what good another pass could do, you’re not done – you’re ready for the first review. Which is the long way of saying: learn to edit, not […]

The dos and don’ts of writing samples

In no particular order, here are my recommendations for writing samples for those of you applying for a tech writing job. And yes, you need writing samples. Purpose The purpose of writing samples is to prove you have technical writing skills, not that you’ve held down a job. So when you pick or write samples, […]

Attention management for writers, part 4: Research notes

Research notes. A bombastic name for what is usually a bunch of half formed thoughts and snatches of typos. But you know what I mean. Why am I talking about research notes? Because, at least for me, messy notes – especially if they’re physically scattered among multiple sources (notebook, bits of paper, several different files) […]

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, […]

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 […]