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)



The two books I use most, apart from style guides, are “Developing Quality Technical Information: A Handbook for Writers and Editors” and “DITA Best Practices: A Roadmap for Writing, Editing, and Architecting in DITA”. They’re both by IBM Press and part of a 3-book bundle: http://www.ibmpressbooks.com/store/best-practices-for-technical-writers-and-editors-collection-9780132929653
The first is a very structured overview of how to get consistently high quality into documentation and maintain it. The second is the best hands-on book about DITA and topic-based authoring that I know.

Karen Mardahl

2 suggestions for the price of one comment!

Just finished Ginny Redish’s “Letting Go of the Words” second edition from 2012. I’d add this to the list. In fact, someone just asked me for advice for editors moving to techcomm. I’ve decided they need to read this book.

I bought Judith Taritz’ “Technical Editing” based on very high praise and recommendations from others in the community. It’s the number-one editing book, they say. My job title is not editor, but of course, I need those skills for my own work and for reviewing. It’s one of many invisible titles. 🙂


On a non XML note, anything by George Orwell but especially his essay Politics and the English Language (1946). Orwell wrote about the importance of precise and clear language, arguing that writing can be used as a powerful tool because it shapes the way we think. In this essay, Orwell provides six rules for writers each of which are still particualrly important to technical writers.

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