Technical Writer in Training: The “Right” Words

And here we are at the end of week five already! Time flies…

As expected, I’ve been doing more writing in the past few weeks – I’ve written six release notes now, weighing in at all of 492 words, but they were hard-won and I’m proud of them.

The technical writing environment is different from any I’ve written in before. In my fiction, I write what I want and worry about audience later. In past jobs, I was always the de facto “best” writer by virtue of the fact that no one else was a writer. I’ve never had to submit my writing for review, and I’ve never had to conform it to a specific style and set of expectations.

Because technical writing is formulaic, based on precedent and best practices, industry standards and customer expectations, I’ve been finding myself obsessing over finding the “right” words.

When I get a new assignment, I gather up all the facts and try to assemble them like pieces of a puzzle – as if release notes were a written-word version of Mastermind. I agonize over word choice and order and style and when I’m finished I hold my breath and send my work to my boss, then wait on the edge of my seat to see if I got the answers right.

I know that this is the flawed logic of a newbie and a perfectionist, so I asked #TechComm Twitter for advice and these are some of the responses:

1 2 3 4 5 6

I love all of this advice, especially the reminders to simply ask for guidance and trust your instincts. And of course, familiarity goes a long way – I’ve spent a lot of time reading my department’s documentation and reverse engineering our style guide and it’s gone a long way toward improving my confidence.

*Originally posted on theleastshrew.com*

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