TechWhirl: Technical Communication Recap for August 24, 2012

This week’s update on technical communication and the TechWhirl community is supported by Platinum sponsor Madcap & their Ultimate Communications Suite, MadPak |

In many places around the US, the new school year is starting or just about to start, and those with kids are either joyful at the prospect of no longer hearing “I’m bored,” and other summertime complaints, or frazzled with all the preparations, from shopping for supplies to confirming school bus routes.  Back-to-school season often brings a focus on back-to-basics, which could partially explain the underlying theme of this week’s technical communication feature articles on Tech Writer Today.

We started out with a piece on taking up marketing writing duties.  Craig Cardimon provided a positive story about breaking out of technical communication and into marketing (without ever leaving the tech comm part behind).  Andrea Altenburg asked the question that faces many technical writers who work on a product for any length of time—how close is too close to end users to write effectively? And Jacquie Samuels offered up some practical ways to deal with technical editors and get that final draft done.

All three of these features provide good, practical and relevant guidance for writers at all stages of their technical communication careers.  Writing (technical communications or marketing), editing, and audience analysis are three core skills for which we can all welcome skills refreshers and fresh perspectives.  Find some time to pause from the back-to-school rush and enjoy. As always, we invite you to take a minute to vote in our weekly technical communication poll on technical content consumption preferences, which we’re holding over for this week.  Then post a comment or head back over the email discussion list and start a new thread.

Make plans to attend the TechWhirl Fast 5 Live Interview with Jack Molisani of the LavaCon Conference next Wednesday, August 29 at noon (EST).  We’ll have a live chat via Google+ Hangouts with this industry leader about what’s in store for the conference in October, and tips for making the business case to attend. If you can’t make the live chat, fear not.  We’ll be recording the event, and posting it to YouTube.

Have a great weekend

-The gang at TechWhirl

  Tech Writer This Week for August 23, 2012

Here’s more than a taste of user experience, content strategy and technical communications goodness from around the web for tech writers to enjoy. Tech Writer This Week uncovers key ingredients, common mistakes to avoid, workflow and governance, and the growing interdependence between these three fields. We also extend an invitation to join us for our TechWhirl Fast 5 Video Chats, and give you a chance to do a bit of time traveling.

  Working with a Technical Editor: Got My Edits Back. Now What?

Technical writers often cringe when they get edited content back from the editor, but it doesn’t have to be that bad. Vacation, procrastination, and taking it easy really can help. Here are the steps (yes, take them in order), to follow when receiving edits and revising content from your technical editor or your SME.

  Technical Communication Poll: Content Consumption Preferences

Back in the old days, when I was a student in mass communications, I recall a professor discussing the fact that everyone has an opinion about advertising. We’re all exposed to thousands of commercial messages in any given day, across every possible medium, and with all that exposure we’re bound to have an opinion or two about those messages–at least the ones that cut through the clutter. Given the prevalence of assumptions about how customers don’t read the documentation, it’s pretty likely that everyone has an opinion about technical communication content as well.

  Technical Writers and End Users: How Close Is Too Close?

As technical writers, our main goal often is to write instructions so the end user will understand how to use the product for their specific needs. This sounds easier than it usually is in reality, because the end-user point-of-view is ephemeral and hard to maintain. Many of us are familiar with the argument the longer we spend documenting product, the harder it is to see it from the end-user perspective. On the other side is another argument, if we have no contact with users, it’s infinitely more difficult to write appropriately for them. So this begs the question: How close should a technical writer be to an end user to properly write instructions for them?

  Breaking out of the Technical Communication Mold … and into Marketing

Yes I did it… I crossed over. Turns out that adding marketing writing to the technical communication repertoire wasn’t the moral, ethical, or skills struggle I’ve been hearing about for years. I broke into marketing because I knew I could do marketing writing, and I saw a need I could fill.

 Technical Communication News

Social Media and the Chance to Follow TechWhirl:


We want to send a very special “thank you” to our sponsors for their support.

Platinum: Adobe Systems Incorporated

Gold: ComponentOne Software, Madcap Software

Silver: Society for Technical Communication (STC), Vancouver Island University


Subscribe to TechWhirl via Email