Latest posts by techwriter (see all)
- Test Your Knowledge of 4 Basic Fonts – Drag & Drop - January 27, 2017
- How NOT to Design a Web Site - January 25, 2017
- Hazards of Poorly Written Technical Documentation - December 26, 2016
One traditional complaint leveled at technical writing is that it’s “boring.” I obviously strongly disagree with that charge and I’ll explain why.
But first a necessary personal disclosure: yes, I do love technical communication with a passion but that’s of course NOT the only thing in life that I like intensely.
For example, I also happen to love poetry and fiction, as well as movies, painting, architecture, running, history, etc.
But, in addition to all that, I take great pleasure in organizing technical information in ways that are easily understood, shared, and retained.
I think good technical communication is one of the most valuable “public good” items that any society can enjoy. It’s a national asset. I firmly believe that our world would be a much better place to live if there were more high-quality technical communication products and platforms around.
Back to the charge of “boring”…
Yes, in a sense, technical writing is perhaps boring. Why? Because by its very definition, technical communication needs to be CONSISTENT. Period.
If you have taken any creative writing courses, one of the first things the instructors stress is variety of expression. Fiction and emotional engagement needs a rich collection of words, metaphors, phrasing to keep our interest alive and help us visualize the “human drama” in question.
But technical writing is “no-drama writing.” Actually, dramatic writing kept alive by inconsistent and diverse expressions can be deadly in technical writing. We do want our instructional manual for engine maintenance so consistent, so reliable that (yes) it should also be “boring” to a fault. That’s actually the hallmark of all excellent procedural writing.
Remember, technical communication’s aim is not to entertain us to engage us emotionally. That’s the domain of creative writing.
No. Technical communication aims to explain, train, and teach with ZERO errors. And to achieve that, it needs to be disciplined, and consistent. If it calls a widget “Part A” on page 1, it needs to refer to the same widget with the same label on ALL the other pages.
Thus I believe critics who accuse technical writing for being “boring” confuse the goal of this important niche of writing with that of creative writing.