Encompasses computer and technology writing, end-user documentation, code documentation, engineering, the sciences, consumer manuals, and more.

learn more… | top users | synonyms

50
votes
13answers
4k views

What's the modern way to handle gender in tech writing?

Back in my day, I was taught to use masculine pronouns. The user chooses a password, and then he types it in the text box. I'm fine with that. but a male coworker insists on using he/she, ...
23
votes
6answers
1k views

Writing first programming book

I was recently asked if I was interested in writing a book for a pretty reputable publisher, which of course I accepted. I am not a writer by trade, I am a software developer with some technical ...
22
votes
10answers
510 views

How can one make technical issues more accessible to a non-technical audience?

Most of what I write is non-fiction -- technical books, blog posts on open source topics, political stuff, etc. Lately, I find that some of the topics I am trying to present are much more technical ...
14
votes
14answers
975 views

Is it okay to call the reader's target audience stupid?

I'm a tech genre author, and have already published one book on Android development. However, this book was focused more on the developer of the apps, than the user. Now I'm working on my second ...
13
votes
6answers
1k views

Should one use the legal “shall” in requirements documents and specification documents?

At least in the US, "will" has replaced "shall" in most every context, with the notable exception of the "legal shall". Shall is used instead of will in legal documents to indicate a sense of ...
12
votes
5answers
680 views

Best practices for maintaining documented code examples?

A good SDK (software development kit) includes plenty of well-documented examples. It also includes good tutorials and developer guides, which introduce concepts in logical progressions, typically ...
11
votes
2answers
207 views

How do you build good per-book *and* global indexes?

For our SDK, we generate individual documents (PDFs) and one big HTML doc set (CHM file) from the same Docbook source. Each book has an index, and the HTML version has an integrated index that is the ...
10
votes
3answers
241 views

How to write to accommodate subsequent automatic translation

The texts I am writing will be translated by people who are not experts in the topic and in some cases by a machine with next to none human editing afterwards. What strategies should I employ to ...
10
votes
5answers
2k views

How much time do you spend writing one page on average? [closed]

I'm writing a technical book about one programming technology and would like to compare how much time other authors spend on one page (on average). I rarely write a page and am done with it, quite ...
10
votes
3answers
231 views

Is it legal to write about trademarked material and use the terms?

I am contemplating writing a technical book (and probably self-publishing it) on a proprietary programming interface for a well-known software package produced by a very large company. The company ...
10
votes
6answers
1k views

Technical Writing Software

I'm interested in newer software/software stack to use in writing technical papers. For the longest time I have been use LaTeX to handle this but in looking at getting longer pieces published, such as ...
10
votes
4answers
1k views

Writing a programming book: how to present directory structures

What is good/preferred way of presenting directory trees in programming books? My main criteria are following: It should be readable and intuitive It shouldn't take too much page space It ...
9
votes
10answers
277 views

An alternative to saying 'users' when describing features

I'm creating some copy describing new web-app features for a number of different audiences (users, managers of sections of the site, owners of sub-sites which use our platform etc.). I'm finding ...
8
votes
8answers
1k views

Good Outlining Solutions For OSX?

I write technical non-fiction and find that I cannot write well without first constructing a detailed (10-20 page) outline. Are there any good outlining solutions for OSX? Apps? Templates in Microsoft ...
8
votes
13answers
1k views

Does a technical writer need a technical background?

Does a technical writer need a technical background?
7
votes
3answers
474 views

What are the key skills for a new technical writer?

For those that are just starting out, what are key skills they should have or learn to be a good technical writer?
7
votes
6answers
419 views

Quality of my blog writing [closed]

I came here from Jeff Atwood's blog where he mentions that writing a blog can clear your own internal thought processes and that you should take feedback about your writing so that you can improve. ...
7
votes
1answer
2k views

Citing Myself As a Source

I'm writing an academic paper on ethics in robotics. I have a previous paper that I wrote and would like to use material from it. If I use the material from this paper, that I wrote, do I need to ...
7
votes
2answers
134 views

How do you track dependencies for your co-authors?

I and one or more co-authors, sometimes geographically distributed, are working on a set of related documents. Sometimes I will make a change in my part that has effects on someone else's part; this ...
6
votes
3answers
190 views

How to start a technical book?

Well, I am a experienced software developer and looking at question made by friends that are learning, questions over the internet and StackExchange, I noticed that I eventually could help more people ...
6
votes
8answers
457 views

Verbosity: when's enough enough?

In corporate life I've come across two general styles of writing: terse and cryptic or long and complete. In my own writing I tend to go too much in the "explain all possible interpretations" ...
6
votes
3answers
286 views

In end user documentation, should screenshots come before or after the text that references them?

The end user documentation I'm writing makes use of screenshots (and partial screenshots) to show the user what I'm referring to in procedural instructions for or conceptual explanations of the ...
6
votes
2answers
385 views

Breaking Into Technical Writing - Where to Start (from a programming background)

I'm currently in the process of expanding my company from doing coding & web development to more technical writing and freelance tech journalism. Although my background is mainly in technology, ...
6
votes
2answers
135 views

Using LaTeX with publishers?

Background: Im working on a rather long instructional book, and have just started trying to use LaTeX. The book doesn't have any scientific notation in it, and most of the diagrams I made in other ...
6
votes
4answers
406 views

Which goes first: summary, background or justification?

I am trying to write a long expository piece and cannot figure out which information should come first. Here are three candidates: A summary/abstract lists the main points, without necessarily ...
6
votes
2answers
112 views

Standards for representing user interaction

I am responsible for developing internal IT documentation but have only begun my scratching the surface on technical documentation. Is there a standard or best practice for the following: Example ...
5
votes
3answers
1k views

Does reading books help writing skills?

Just what the title says. I decided to improve my writing skills only for blogging purposes (for starters and no, it's not a part of new year's resolution). I am also not really good at writing (i.e. ...
5
votes
5answers
184 views

How to write about things which depend on each other

I am writing a technical documentation about a product. Now problem is there are many interrelated and interdependent concepts. I am just confused how to put them in order. I mean if I talk about ...
5
votes
6answers
270 views

Book recommendations for writing better technical papers

My employer has presented me with two books to read to help me write better technical papers and emails. Essentials of English Grammar and Handbook of English Grammar and Usage. I have read through ...
5
votes
3answers
307 views

Is the idea of single-sourced documentation dead?

Is the idea of single-sourced documentation dead?
5
votes
1answer
287 views

How to get a programming book published

So I feel I'm a pretty good programmer in my area of expertise. Whats the process for writing a book about my niche and getting it published?
5
votes
5answers
143 views

Interesting and easier-to-read alternatives to the scientific academic article

Short version: What is an equally informative, but more interesting alternative to typical academic-article-style scientific writing? Longer version: I love writing, I do a lot of it – fiction and ...
5
votes
6answers
456 views

Does this feel like natural English?

Although I'm pretty confident in my English, I'm not a native English speaker. I need to write a short introduction for a symposium; I'd like to know if you think this paragraph feels like 'natural' ...
5
votes
3answers
855 views

When is it acceptable to use the first person (“I”, “we”) in technical reports?

When is it acceptable to use the first person ("I", "we") in technical reports?
5
votes
3answers
227 views

How can you write less to say more?

Sometimes you can write a lot without saying anything, sometimes you can say a lot but get little through the reader. In technical writing the later is very typical (at least for me), one can tend ...
5
votes
4answers
383 views

Demo data in screenshots! What are the best practice?

My question is related to best practices of making screenshots for end-user documentation. Particularly, is there universal information for filling in forms in the software and after that making ...
5
votes
4answers
283 views

How can a new writer make a realistic estimate of his work rate?

This question relates to my earlier question Habits and routines for my first tech writing job which I was told to split into two parts. My first technical writing / translation gig starts soon. A ...
5
votes
1answer
189 views

How can I write better code-based reference documentation for programming interfaces?

Programmers can write comments in code that can be automatically turned into API documentation (like Javadoc). All I have to do is add some comments explaining what a class or method does and what ...
5
votes
3answers
247 views

Overusing “the” and “I”

I'm not a native English speaker, and I find that my English writing contains too many definite article "the" when writing scientific reports, and too many "I" when writing in informal settings (like ...
5
votes
4answers
556 views

Ways to improve your writing skills

As a CS major I've learned that knowing how to write is critically important, but, I'm not really sure how to improve my writing skills. I'm currently trying to write a tech blog in English, but, ...
5
votes
2answers
648 views

Should I prefer long or short sentences in scientific writing?

Currently, I am writing papers with rather short sentences: About half of them contain around 20 words, about 10% to 20% even less. I am doing this for three reasons: I find short sentences easier ...
5
votes
2answers
281 views

How do you introduce terms?

There's a few different styles for technical (academic) papers. Which is the preferred style to introducing new technical terms? For example, here is a paragraph I have that I don't like, because I ...
5
votes
1answer
168 views

Outlining for white papers

I used to write technical white papers on different technologies. There should be some rules for writing professionals, some home work that needs to be done. I have never gone through any professional ...
5
votes
2answers
126 views

How can I prevent, or work around, unfortunate hyphenation in critical words?

In technical documentation, sometimes the tool's automatic hyphenation makes a bad break in the middle of a term, like the name of an environment variable or function. In these cases I would rather ...
5
votes
2answers
237 views

Why are license agreements, disclaiming letters and others written with capital letters?

We know that reading sentences with capital letters is hard. I noticed that some documents are still written with capital letters. Why are license agreements, disclaiming letters and others written ...
5
votes
2answers
214 views

How can you build an interactive tone into articles?

I was wondering about tone in articles lately. My articles don't tend to be interactive. It feels like most of them are just flowing one way. How does actually tone contribute to the quality of an ...
4
votes
1answer
302 views

Bullets vs. Numbering: which to use when?

A writer can either choose to use bullets or else stick to conventional (or in certain cases non-conventional) numbering. Are there set guidelines about when to use what? Is the use of numbering ...
4
votes
3answers
102 views

Marking a chart that is not based on real data

I want to include a chart in my thesis to visualize an idea but the chart is not based on real data, it just helps me to explain a concept. How can I label it so it's not confused for actual data. It ...
4
votes
5answers
582 views

What are the advantages of different date formats in resumes and CVs?

I've seen a somewhat related question, but it doesn't answer my question quite right. Say you're writing an event that happened on a single day, and you need to put it in your resume or CV. So how ...
4
votes
3answers
137 views

Feedback on technical blog post

I've recently composed a blog post about World of Warcraft Authenticators and would love for some feedback as per the quality of writing. Obviously no matter how many times I read it there's no ...