While there have been huge leaps in the technology used to create and publish user documentation, it’s been quite a while since there were any serious changes to the writing style in technical communication.
Here is a rough timeline for technical communications standards, according to xml.org:
- 1961 Quick Reader Comprehension (QRC)
- 1963 Hughes STOP – (Sequential Thematic Organization of Publications)
- 1967 Information Mapping
- 1974 SGML
- 1982 Information Types
- 1990 Minimalism and task orientated instructions
See also History of technical communication in 7 minutes video.
The writing style has essentially remained the same for at least 20 years.
So what about DITA – isn’t that new? DITA was introduced around 2002 (and approved as a standard in 2005), but it’s more about structuring and organising information around Information Types such as task, concept and reference. Is the style of writing for DITA any different from the writing style for minimalism?
With the new insights we can gain from web analytics, psychology and other data, is it time to see if we can make improvements to the writing style used by most technical communicators?