I am frequently asked, “What are some good places to learn technical writing?” This page will be an evolving document listing off forums, organizations, and even books (gasp!) that have helped me improve my game. I may include some that look excellent even if they haven’t been pivotal in my particular career.
Solid, Automated Feedback on Your Writing
The Hemingway App is geared toward improving your writing. Generally, it seems to score with an eye toward helping you write very clean, active prose more or less suitable for tech writing. It gives lots of generally good advice about writing good, clean prose.
Readable.io evaluates text giving you a variety of scores based on different academic scales that I don’t understand. But what I do understand is the simple letter grade that it gives. It also gives you some statistical feedback, such as the percentage of your words that are adverbs.
Books and Online Guides
English and Tech Comms Usage
To The Point: A Dictionary of Concise Writing. If you can reduce every phrase from 3 to 2 words, you save your readers 1/3 of your life and they will love you for it. Look up a phrase and this nifty book provides a briefer alternative. I use it when I sense my inner poet driving my tech comms work. The more you use it, the less you need to.
Microsoft Manual of Style for all language more specific to software documentation as well as formatting usage.
Chicago Manual of Style online, or buy a copy to settle all questions about grammar and usage.
The Elements of Style, because it’s inexpensive, brief, and an excellent guide to how to write clean and simple prose. If you haven’t read it, you probably stink at writing. Just kidding. Kind of.
The Complete Plain Words, basically a longer form of The Elements of Style and - I’m not joking - good for daily reading. It teaches more about a mentality than about memorizing rules and helps you learn to empathize with your poor reader.
The Craft of Tech Comms
Modern Technical Writing focuses on software documentation and is a gem of a book.
The Definitive Guide to Creating API Documentation by the folks from Madcap Flare, an industry standard for technical writing.
Society for Technical Communications is a real-life organization to help tech comms people network and improve our craft. The society produces salary guides, a peer-reviewed journal as well as an online magazine, and lots of activities and an annual conference. Disclaimer: I’m a member. Warning: it’s not cheap. Advice: I do find it worthwhile or I wouldn’t keep renewing.
Write the Docs From their website: “Write the Docs is a series of conferences and local meetups focused on all things related to software documentation… We consider everyone who cares about communication, documentation, and their users to be a member of our community. This can be programmers, tech writers, developer advocates, customer support, marketers, and anyone else who wants people to have great experiences with software.”
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