#3 Having the Stephen King Syndrome

Do you know that there are novelty type of writers who just sit down and write a whole book just like that! They write and write and in two days they produce a whole novel!

According to Wikipedia, Stephen King is famous for doing that!

Great, isn’t it? But it’s not like that in technical writing.

Despite the fact that we are often referred to as “authors of software documentation”, unlike Stephen King’s book fans, readers are not happy when they need to read another 500 pages from our documentation.

And as authors of software documentation our goal is not to keep the reader interested in continuing to read the documentation!

The goal is the opposite! It’s to make sure your reader has to spend as little time as possible reading documentation - we want the user to stay focused on using the software instead!

That is why it always amazes me that so many technical writers will spend most of their time... writing! Producing endless volumes of content! Adding another chapter of the documentation!

Can you imagine your customers saying:

“Oh, I can't wait to read another chapter on how to configure this software!

My favorite part is when the connectivity service never manages to find his long lost brother - the back-end! And their mother, the service core - does not even know that her long lost child is still alive! What a wonderful drama”!

At least in my experience I have never seen a customer ticket appreciating the volume of the documentation!

But I have seen tickets such as - “we know that the configuration we are looking for is documented somewhere, however we cannot find it at all, as you have so much documentation that we need to go through!

Here is a high priority ticket for you to find it instead of us!”

Today’s example... no, there is no example!

Image 1: Search the documentation, please!

Do take a continuous attempt to look at your writing and think. Then ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Am I writing information that is not needed to solve the problem?
  2. Can I use a graphic or a diagram to explain it better?
  3. Should I use a video instead of written text to make it faster for the audience to get that concept?
  4. Can I break this topic down into smaller self-contained topics that answer only one question at a time?
  5. Can I apply minimalism principles in how I say it there?
  6. Should this be written documentation or embedded information on the screen?

P.S.

Alright, alright, for all of you still see themselves as creative writers and not only as technical writers - what’s that you can do with the creative spark inside of you? My recommendation - write beautiful and fun to read blog posts for your customers on your company web site - and then link them to your short and straight to the point software documentation!