Seven Deadly Sins of Tech Writing Burnout

Editor’s Note: The following piece by Liz Russell is part of our collection of “classics”–articles that stand the test of time no matter how many technologies come and go.

Beware the need for a vacation when the normally exciting and always rewarding nature of your technical writing job begins to lead you astray:

  1. Your pride becomes fragile. When someone asks what you do for a living, you lie. You no longer have the energy to defend your work against comments such as, “Manuals…I never read them,” or “Why do all instructions suck?”
  2. You envy other positions in your organization and foster over-simplified views of coworkers’ responsibilities. Sales is easy; salespeople don’t have to understand the product, they just have to sell it. Customer service is a piece of cake; all they have to do is answer the phone all day.
  3. You find relief from technical tedium only in gluttony. Snack machines, leftovers from client visits, and birthday cakes from office celebrations frequently lure you from your cubicle. When your mouth is full, you can forget about crafting grammatically correct and technically accurate sentences.
  4. You lust after lexicons and dream of becoming verbose. You long to use different ways to write common phrases. “Click OK” becomes, “When the spirit moves you, depress the OK button to move on to your next challenge.”
  5. You are frequently angry with subject matter experts. Desires to throttle the smart-alecks often become so strong you have to excuse yourself from meetings.
  6. You grow greedy. Your compensation pales in comparison with the demands on your talents. You dream of bonuses and haunt salary surveys on the Web. No amount of money seems fair compensation for the amount and type of work you do.
  7. You become slothful in your instructions. Wondering why you have to explain every little thing in so much detail, you lazily gloss over large amounts of technical information. You figured out the product on your own, so why can’t your audience?

Find yourself committing these sins? It’s time to repent.  Just call your travel agent and book yourself into a holy spot on a beach or a distant ski slope.

Category: Lighter Side - Tag (s): humor


13 years ago

This is quite an interesting article. My general observation is that if someone find himself committing these signs, might think changing the career or the company he works for. I indicate this due a similar situation an ex-colleague of mine had.
1. I never lie about my job. I am a technical writer and I am pride about that. Why? In my country we are less than 10 Senior TWs. I like doing this job. It is true developers and some others in the technical skills think “ a manual is the last thing to turn to” although sometimes they recognize this is a mistake.
2. This could be true in case of TW who are superficial. How can a Sales position be easy, or marketing…. They have tones of market research to do and sometimes boring things to do. Some time ago I was asked to help the Marketing and Sales department with some tasks.. I would never change TW for a position in that field.
3. I prefer not comment on this one…
4. This point made me laugh. Maybe someone who does this should change career. Don’t you think?
5. This is rarely true.
6. Nothing to comment.
7. The main purpose of the technical writer is to understand a product / system and then explain others how to use it. Therefore, this is totally wrong.


13 years ago

I can completely relate to this article! These are spot on. I was in a situation once where I found myself feeling most of these sins. It wasn’t the work that drove me to burn out – it was the people and the culture of the project and team. And once I changed projects and teams, my burnout dissolved and my passion returned. Thanks for the amusing reminder of when it’s time to move on. :-)

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