Which books should Technical Authors read?

Woman reading bookThe bookshelves here at Cherryleaf are double stacked, and we’ve received another book this week to read and then store.

So it seemed like a good time to mention which books we’d advise Technical Authors to read.

This most recent book was published by XML Press, and their publications are well worth looking at. We have quite a few books from them. Some were review copies (i.e. free), and others were ones we bought.

Most Technical Authors use style guides, and both Microsoft and IBM publish style guides you should consider buying. Style guides help you make sure you’re using the right terminology. They can also help your manuals complement the big vendors’ documentation.

Cherryleaf offers a couple of Kindle books for a just a few pounds.

Then there are the technical writing “classics”. In this group, we’d recommend you look at books by Ron BlicqJohn Carroll, JoAnn HackosKaren Schriver and Joe Welinske.

Specialist books like these are not cheap, unfortunately; a decent collection of technical writing books will set you back at least £100.

Which other books and authors would you recommend to Technical Authors? You can use the comments box below to share your opinion with others.

(Flickr image: Will Ockenden)

Should Technical Authors be allowed to work from home?

With the recent media attention on Yahoo’s announcement that it is banning its staff from “remote” working, we thought it might be useful to look at the case for and against Technical Authors working from home.

The case for allowing remote working

  1. They can do their jobs more productively without interruption from others. When Technical Authors are writing (which is approximately 50% of their time), it can often help their concentration if they can work in a distraction-free environment.
  2. There’s less need for office space and related costs (telephones, desktop computers etc).
  3. Staff may be less stressed. Brad Harrington, executive director of the Boston College Center for Work & Family, claims people who work from home tend to have less stress and are more productive, partly because they don’t invest time and money in commuting, and they can have a better work/life balance.
  4. You may get more flexibility over staff availability. Without the need to commute, staff may be more willing to work out-of-hours.
  5. You have a wider pool of people interested in your vacancies if you can offer some flexibility in working hours and location.

The case against allowing remote working

  1. You’re more likely to build up a company culture if everyone is working in the same space together. This is particularly important for start-up businesses.
  2. It’s easier to network with others. These contacts could boost your careers in the future.
  3. It’s easier to monitor the work staff are carrying out.
  4. It’s can be faster to make decisions (as you can carry out impromptu meetings).
  5. According to Marissa Meyer, face-to-face meetings boost the quality of decisions and business ideas:

“Some of the best decisions and insights come from hallway and cafeteria discussions, meeting new people, and impromptu team meetings.”

Our opinion

Being a Technical Author is one of those roles where remote working can work well. However, it’s best to be able to have both options available – to have people who can come into the office within a short space of time, should there be an emergency. There’s a great deal of value in meeting people face-to-face, and to be part of a company culture (especially within startups), but it can help enormously if you can write in a distraction-free environment.

If you do work from home, you need to have a productive working environment, and be able to be self-disciplined.

What’s your opinion?

You can use the comment box below.

See also: Cherryleaf recruiting services

Announcement: April date for the Advanced Technical Writing Techniques course

You’ll find we’ve added a new training course date on our Web site for our Trends in Technical Communication Workshop – Advanced Technical Writing Techniques.

It will be held on Monday 22th April.
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Technical Authors and the dark art of persuasion

Our latest post for the STC’s blog has been published today - Letter from the UK: The Dark Art of Persuasion.

The reason why Science and the dark art of persuasion interested me, was because we’re noticing the techniques of persuasion appearing in some Web-based Help. Indeed, we cover some of these techniques in our advanced technical writing course. So, although the debate was on what scientists should know about persuasion, and whether they should ever use these techniques, it seemed likely that the information would also be relevant to technical writers.

See Letter from the UK: The Dark Art of Persuasion.

Extra date for Trends in Technical Communication Workshop – Advanced Technical Writing Techniques

You’ll find we’ve added a new training course date on our Web site for our Trends in Technical Communication Workshop – Advanced Technical Writing Techniques.

It will be held on Monday 25th February.

The January course sold out within ten days, so it’s wise to book early.

If you’ve read the technical writing blogs and magazines, you’ll have noticed a growing interest in new approaches to technical communication – asking whether all of the tried-and-tested writing methods from past decades still make sense today.

In this course, you’ll find out how Technical Authors in leading companies are now applying techniques from other disciplines (such as psychology, copywriting, usability and elearning) into the information they create. The course has been designed to be independent of any particular authoring tool, and to work in both a structured and unstructured authoring environment.
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Announcing: Trends in Technical Communication Workshop – Advanced Technical Writing Techniques

You’ll find a new training course on our Web site called Trends in Technical Communication Workshop – Advanced Technical Writing Techniques.

If you’ve read the technical writing blogs and magazines, you’ll have noticed a growing interest in new approaches to technical communication – asking whether all of the tried-and-tested writing methods from past decades still make sense today.

In this course, you’ll find out how Technical Authors in leading companies are now applying techniques from other disciplines (such as psychology, copywriting, usability and elearning) into the information they create. The course has been designed to be independent of any particular authoring tool, and to work in both a structured and unstructured authoring environment.

If you want to discover new approaches to technical writing, this one-day, hands-on advanced workshop is right for you.

To start with, we’ll be offering this course on-site or in-house (i.e. at our training centre in Central London), with public courses following later on. As an on-site course, the exercises can be based around your existing content.

For more information, see Trends in Technical Communication Workshop – Advanced Technical Writing Techniques.

The best book for Technical Communicators in 2012

The best book I’ve read in 2012 wasn’t written for Technical Authors. It wasn’t even published in 2011. It was written by one my fellow speakers at the STC Conference in Chicago, and it was one that was the most thought provoking books I’ve read this year.

One of the subjects it explores is curiosity:

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Nine myths about technical writing

“We can design away the need for a user manual and online Help”

The idea of a product that totally is intuitive to use, the product that sells itself, sounds terribly attractive. Often these are called commodities, and consumers tend to go for the cheapest one, or the one with the best brand image.

There are situations where good intuitive design can sell successfully, and the Apple iPad is probably the most well known example. However, even iPad users seek Help and want user guides.

iPad books at Heathrow Airport

iPad books at Heathrow Airport

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