Teaching an Old Dog Old Tricks
By pkasper on Oct 20, 2006
o.k., so I don't consider myself old, but I'm kind of long in the tooth in the technical writing field. I've been tech writing now for about 15 years now...I shudder even as I write this.
Why am I telling you this? Well, my manager sent out a very interesting article called, "Corporate Blogging and the Technical Writer" (PDF), which talks about how blogging may change the future of technical writers. It's actually a pretty good article about blogging in general, so you don't need to care about technical writing to learn something.
I found one part very interesting:
"If technical writers blog, they will have to break free of the technical documentation mindset. Breaking out of the voiceless, impersonal prose that makes up the pure information of instructions requires a transition akin to letting your hair down, putting on jeans, and speaking up in meetings without hesitation."
This made me laugh. I remember back when I was fresh out of college and working at Cray Research. I had just graduated with a double major in Computer Science and English (there were no technical writing degrees at the time), so my writing was more on the creative side. My first project was a "change packet"...a set of page updates sent out to the field that replaced pages in a document housed in a binder. Ugh. Maybe I am old.
Anyway, I poured my heart and soul into this change packet and when I got it back from editing, my work was bathed in a sea of red ink. That first experience began the process of beating the "creative, personal prose" out of me and it continued from there.
So, I for one am looking forward to being able to "let my hair down" a little bit more in the future as I write in the new participation age. Technical writers still bring important value to information, such as organization, consistency, and customer focus. But, it would be nice to take some of the stuffiness out of what I typically do as a technical writer and get back to my "authentic voice."