Category Archives: How To

How to Write Error Messages: Faster, Stronger, Better

Blame the cat, TV, or the neighbors if you want. The thing is: stuff happens. When it does, you need some way to fix it, pronto. Aren’t  I right? This is where error messages can save you bacon. No one thinks of writing an error message guide until it’s too late. So, I’m telling you […]

5 Ways To Differentiate Yourself as a Technical Writer

Feeling ignored? What’s that? No pay respects the hard work you do as a tech writer. Sad, isn’t it? Very sad… Ever wonder why? Ever wonder what you need to do about it? Hmmm? Tom Peters says, “the value of services will continue to fall” and that the only way to survive is to differentiate […]

How I Set Priorities: Get Things Done

Ross Kimbarovsky asks: “How do you decide what to do next? Should you write a blog post? Answer emails in your inbox? Make several sales calls? Spend time on Twitter? Or should you call a team meeting to discuss a customer problem? Ross adds that successful people are successful in part “because they are good […]

12 Steps To Getting Started as a Consultant

Most people think it’s difficult start a career as a business consultant. I used to think the same in my early 20s when I started in IT. In retrospect, I should have made more efforts to establish myself as a consultant earlier; the benefits certainly outweigh the downsides. As luck would have it, I was […]

How Technical Writers Can Move Further Up The Food Chain

Do you feel loved? Many technical writers feel unloved. They feel they don’t get the respect they deserve. I hear this on LinkedIn and Facebook: “people don’t respect the work I do.” Well, if that’s the case, here are a few ways to get more respect and move into a more rewarding career.

Who Makes More Money – Technical Writers with Language or Technical Skills?

Which of these would you hire to join your Technical Writing Dept? Someone with great writing skills but little technical knowledge or, for example, a Computer Science graduate with deep technical knowledge but average writing skills? We’ve been talking about this on LinkedIn and here are some thoughts.

How Advertising in User Guides Could Work

Putting advertising in user guides may seem rather flaky at first, but it could work. Here’s why. Life is full of taboos. Things you should and shouldn’t do. One of my ‘pet projects’ is to connect the lines between Sales and Technical Documentation. To me, they both serve the same purpose. Serve the customer. While they both start at different points, the end goal is the same. Unfortunately, these two departments rarely work together. Let’s take a look at how we can fix this.

How to Interview Technical Writers Even If You're Not a Technical Writer

Yes, I’m that terrible person who interviews technical writers and asks those awkward questions. Here are some of the things I’m looking for when I interview people. First, companies expect that graduates will have the same (more or less) writing skills – that’s a given. So, what they’re looking for are other qualities.

User Guide vs User Manual – which is right?

Let’s say you’re setting up a new Tech Docs Dept. You need to create new guidelines, style guides and naming conventions. Should you call the user ‘documents’ User Guides or User Manuals? Which one is right? I was asked this question by a colleague in India who is setting up a Technical Publishing Dept in […]

How to Write a Target Audience Questionnaire

Creating a training plan? Before you do this, you need to step a step back and work out what your colleagues need to learn.

How To Write Technical Documents Faster

What to know how to type faster and get those documents out the door quicker? Most people don’t know what the AutoCorrect feature in Word really does. Most people think it’s there to correct the odd typo and clean up your document AFTER you have written it. That’s true but… I use to correct the document […]

How to Study Technical Writing Online

The University of Limerick, Ireland offers an excellent online course for those who want to study technical writing at home. This university has a pretty amazing campus, specializes in the Arts and provides a conveyor belt of freshly-minted technical writers to Microsoft, Google and IBM in Ireland. It’s one of the few universities in Europe […]