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Documentation with Human Connection


Hannah Gilberg As technical writers, it’s easy to sacrifice human connection in the strenuous effort to present technically accurate information. Maybe you feel the human connection is marketing’s job, or if you’re in a highly technical field, maybe you think your users are smart enough to make the connections themselves. Maybe you have so much work, it’s all you can do to write something technically accurate before moving on to the next update. The result can be documentation that is airless, academic, and overly technical. In other words, not something that users would want to read! If the success of your company depends on your users actually using your documentation, you have to engage them and build understanding. This presentation will discuss how to create documentation that engages readers and focuses them on what matters. Using the writing process developed by Peter Elbow, author of “Writing without Teachers,” I’ll show how to conduct peer reviews that elicit the reader’s subjective experience -- what Peter Elbow called “movies of the reader’s mind” -- to reveal the ambiguities that can plague our writing. We’ll look at how to use the "summary and sayback" and “center of gravity” techniques to help writers distill a technical passage down to its core. We’ll also look at how giving your documentation a more human voice can improve not only the reader’s experience, but your own experience as a writer as well!


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