Personas and the five W’s: Developing Content that Meets Reader Needs, Pt. 2

In the first part of this article, I introduced the concept of personas, a tool for creating a detailed description of the people we’re writing for. An ideal persona becomes so real that we intimately understand who that person is, what their needs are, the problems they face—and therefore, what we must do to help them solve those problems. To make that admittedly somewhat abstract more concrete, I used the example of Bruce Wayne—the man behind Batman’s mask—because of how instantly familiar that persona is to most Westerners. That description, simplified as it was, provides a strong hook on which to hang more details. Bruce is the answer to the “who?” question, the first of the five W’s. Continue reading ...

Personas and the five W’s: Developing Content that Meets Reader Needs, Pt. 1

Part I: What’s a persona? Most documentation written by professional writers, whether printed or online, is well written and easy to navigate, but in my experience, an unfortunately high proportion omits important content or provides inadequate depth of content. Worse yet, the information may seem perfectly acceptable from a textbook perspective, yet fails to reflect […] Continue reading ...

Taking Advantage of Social Media Part I: The Media Are the Message

In 1964, Marshall McLuhan published Understanding Media, in which the famous phrase “the medium is the message” appeared (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Understanding_Media:_The_Extensions_of_Man). McLuhan’s insight was that the medium and the message you convey via that medium are inseparable, but that the medium you choose sometimes has a sufficiently strong impact that it outweighs the message. Although MacBeth’s “tale […] Continue reading ...

Taking Advantage of Reflexive Responses

While prospecting for information on a Web site that I visit fairly regularly, I recently fell victim to a fascinating Web page trick. The trick took advantage of the kind of reflexive (“programmed”) response we each develop once we grow so familiar with a task that we no longer consciously think about what we’re doing. […] Continue reading ...

Inspiring Reviewers to Review Your Tech Writing Documents

Even the most skillful technical writers face the task of persuading Subject Matter Experts (“SMEs”) to review our documentation for technical correctness; after all, they’re the experts, not us. If pressed, even the most reluctant SMEs acknowledge the value of these reviews. For example, where the interface is in a state of flux, you may […] Continue reading ...