Posts


Aug. 11, 2022

Tech Writing Skills Tree

I had lots of fun creating this D&D style skills tree for technical writers. I made this one out of the belief that there are multiple ways of becoming a tech writer, and that tech writers can specialize.

Aug. 6, 2022

Measure it till you make it

There’s a string of questions that haunt every technical writer and documentation manager at some point in their careers: How do we know that we’ve done a good job? Have we been successful given our limited resources? How can we get better at what we do? Are the docs nailing it? How can we measure value? What do we tell upper management? More importantly, will we know what we’re saying when presenting those figures in slides? And, can you point me to the nearest emergency exit?

Jul. 18, 2022

A love letter to technical writing

I wanted to write this post for a long time, but got to it only now, perhaps because it’s a natural segue into Let’s blog more about technical writing. Whatever the reason, I’m in a moment of my life where I feel compelled to say out loud why I love technical writing. Perhaps you’ll find some words of inspiration here. Or maybe not.

Jul. 15, 2022

Let's blog more about technical writing

I’ve been wondering for a while why I don’t see more blogs on technical writing, tech comms, and technical documentation. I’ve been in listening mode for years, and beyond Tom Johnson’s excellent blog, it’s hard to find more content around technical writing. I’ve some hypotheses as to why that’s happening, as well as a request: We should be blogging more about technical writing and tech comms.

Jul. 3, 2022

How to introduce prose linters at your workplace

Prose linters are great at checking documentation against style guides, either in code editors or when running a CI/CD pipeline. They can capture issues in your docs that might have been overlooked by reviewers, thus avoiding costly mistakes. The bigger problem is how to bring the value of linters to our day-to-day jobs. How do you persuade colleagues to use them when drafting docs? It takes a little patience and ingenuity.

Jun. 24, 2022

Do it yourself: User research for technical documentation

As a technical writer, I often want to know what works and what doesn’t in the docs I’ve released. Oftentimes, I also want to know if the documentation is achieving its purpose. There’s a very good way of getting answers about the quality of your documentation, and that is user research. Analytics or feedback widgets can only get you so far.

May. 11, 2022

Markdoc is not what you expected, and that's a good thing

Beholding Stripe’s excellent documentation and wondering how they’ve built it is a modern technical writing trope. It’s no wonder, then, that when Stripe announced that they open sourced their documentation format and framework, Markdoc, folks would get psyched. I, too, was startled by the sudden release. After some initial doubts, I came to love their approach.

May. 2, 2022

Technical writing syllabus

A few months ago, I drafted a technical writing syllabus. It features all the topics that a senior technical writer should master at some point when working on software documentation.

Mar. 2, 2022

Episode 3 of Let's Talk Docs

Episode 3 of the Let’s Talk Docs podcast is out, hosted by Portia Burton and Eric Holscher (founder of Read the Docs and Write the Docs). Enjoy!

Jan. 22, 2022

Why I collect and read old computer manuals

It’s my ritual: every time I enter a secondhand bookshop, I go straight to the Sciences section and search for old computer manuals. They’re very hard to come by, as their owners tend to throw them away once they stop using a particular device or piece of software. Manuals also happen not to be the most engaging read for most people, which adds to their rarity; few want to peruse an old IBM AS/400 handbook while laying at the beach.

Dec. 20, 2021

An update to my tips for working remotely

Almost two years passed since I published my tips for working remotely. Now that remote work has become almost standard in the software industry, I felt like revisiting that list to add a few items. Enjoy!

Nov. 1, 2021

Better docs, less pain: the case for new docs-as-code standards

Despite the massive growth of docs-as-code as a documentation ethos, I continue to be surprised, year after year, by the lack of robust docs-as-code tools. Most days it feels as if docs-as-code was a giant standing on feet of clay, on the fragile toolchains that we use to create our documentation in all kinds of software companies, from startups to unicorns.

Oct. 21, 2021

The Columbo Technique for Technical Writers

A colleague asked me the other day what’s my favourite way of extracting information from subject-matter experts (SMEs). This is a big topic in technical writing, as most of our time at work is spent chasing engineers and project managers to get bits of information.

My answer was “Be like Lieutenant Columbo”.

Oct. 12, 2021

How to assist API design as a technical writer

The programmatic equivalent of UX Writing is API Design. The words that you use to describe your API enable conversations between software and people - it’s just a bit more structured and mechanical. That’s why technical writers are uniquely suited to assist technical teams in doing API design, especially when an API First design approach is being followed.

Aug. 27, 2021

OpenAI and docs: AI-aided technical writing is here to stay

I get it. It’s hard to read articles about OpenAI’s coding and writing skills without feeling a shiver of neo-luddite panic running down your spine. Especially when one reads passages like the following.

Jun. 23, 2021

Open source tools for REST API documentation

A hands-on review of the most recent open source API documentation toolchains, such as ReDoc, Widdershins, and Elements, the newest solutions from Stoplight, among others. Get the slides here.

Jun. 20, 2021

On personality in technical writing

Had this lovely chat with Chris Ward and Tom Johnson on personality and authorship in technical documentation for the Write the Docs Podcast. Enjoy!

May. 20, 2021

First steps with the Vale prose linter

Code linters support developers by catching errors and stylistic issues in code, such as bad formatting or keywords in the wrong places. The term comes from lint traps in dryer machines, which capture the tiny bits of fiber that separate from cloth.

Mar. 3, 2021

Levels of embedded documentation

There was this discussion at work regarding docs in products, so I sketched a diagram to illustrate the main types of embedded docs, and their place in the product writing continuum, from UX writing to technical writing.

Feb. 4, 2020

Working with remote teams: My Tips

I’ve been working with remote teams for years. It didn’t always work well; sometimes the reason was the content I sent, but most of the time it was the content I did not send, the missed opportunities. The tool never mattered.

Now I want to share what I’ve learned from my past mistakes. Whether you work from home, or work from an office and have colleagues working in other time zones, I hope you’ll find these tips helpful — they’ve been for me.

Oct. 9, 2019

What is technical writing?

From time to time, people ask me about technical writing and the type of work I do. As not much is known about technical writing outside of the English-speaking world, I came up with a short answer. I hope you’ll find it useful.