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© Ugur Akinci
YES, TECHNICAL WRITING IS SUPPOSED TO BE BORING
We are bored when there is ZERO VARIANCE. And good technical writing must have zero variance in its description of how-to steps and other components.
For example, if we call a procedure “subroutine” on page 2, we have to call the same object “subroutine” and not “program thread” on page 34, otherwise the user may/will get confused and end up doing the wrong thing.
Imagine your airplane is flown by a pilot who is trained with a very “exciting” and “hilarious” Training Manual which describes increasing the speed of the plane as “stepping on the gas” on one page, “letting it go” on another, and “pulling the fuel lever to Position X4” on another. Would you trust that pilot? I wouldn’t.
The goal of technical writing is NOT entertainment. It’s goal is to TEACH how to SOLVE a PROBLEM CONSISTENTLY EVERY TIME, in the SAME MANNER, without any errors. And to do that, it needs to be ROCK HARD CONSISTENT, which means, it must have ZERO VARIANCE, which by definition translates to “BORING.”
But it take a lot of effort and creativity to write anything that consistent and reliable.
So here is the paradox of “boring writing”: to write a boring technical document, you need a lot of discipline, knowledge, and forethought to make sure what you have written cannot be interpreted in any other way but the way it is intended. Any misinterpretation… and lives might be at stake (as for example when the pilot flips the wrong switch because it was called different “entertaining” names in different parts of the manual just because the writer tried to be non-boring and “creative”).
This reminded me an anecdote attributed to different writers.
This anecdotal writer sits down and writes a very long letter to her friend. At the end of the letter, she adds this postscript note: “Sorry, I didn’t have the time today to write you a short letter.”
Good experienced technical writers always find the time to write boring documents.
(Photos courtesy of Fabrizio Bucella and Austin Neill at Unsplash-dot-com)