Good technical writing is hard

Submitted by Larry on 31 May 2021 - 8:07pm

A few days ago, I randomly tossed this out on Twitter without context:

Technical writing requires assuming the reader is simultaneously highly intelligent and utterly ignorant, without making them feel like you think they're utterly ignorant.

That shit is hard, yo.

Someone asked for ideas on how to achieve that goal, and it seemed like a topic worthy of discussion so here we are.

Technical writing is not for Dummies

I would expand the statement above a bit, actually. Good technical writing requires:

  • assuming the reader is highly intelligent but accounting for that fact that they may well not be;
  • assuming the reader is utterly ignorant of the topic you're writing about without making them feel ignorant.

That is legitimately hard. And it's a reason good technical writers (aka documentation writers) are highly valuable. Let's break it down piece by piece.

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