As I sit to write this, I mentally pat my back for writing on something that has deserved this attention for long. A lot of curious minds have asked this to me: “What and how do you write? What, exactly, is technical writing?” I say, “Well, I write to empower and express. I write about stuff.” And, that’s what a technical writer does—write about stuff. I continue, “Just that the ‘stuff’ is technical in nature.”
If you are a writer, you too must have had a thought and an urge to communicate it. This post is born out of that urge.
We cannot ‘not communicate’. (We discussed double negatives recently.) That is, we ALWAYS communicate—even when we don’t. They say you could tell a lot about someone by knowing only four of their friends. If that’s the case, imagine how much will you know about me if I were to show you how I write? Conventionally, writing involves thinking (planning and structuring), writing and rewriting, editing, and publishing. For your ease of understanding, I sum that up into persistence, structure, and perspective.
I did not become a writer overnight. You know that. No one can learn to write overnight. Persistence is the word in context; we must work our way up the learning curve. We must keep investing in ourselves. The persistent I am with my writing, the steeper my learning curve is. I have seen a lot of improvement in my storytelling over the years. The same goes for everyone.
Let me introduce Structure in context of the words I often co-locate: thought and process. To share a good thought process, here is what I experiment with:
- Some still follow the good-old method of PREP: Point-Reason-Example-Point. I usually follow Point (or Premise)-Rationale-Example-Conclusion for most of my blog posts. Here and here are a couple of examples.
- Start-Body-End composition: Here, both the Start and End should be on a strong note, and the body should contain the logic to support your opinion.
- Sequential flow. Here, one paragraph leads to another. This also means breaking down a task into logical steps by creating a structure of information. This one applies to technical communication or instructional designing.
- Topical flow. Here, the first paragraph is usually the best (or the most informative), followed by mutually-exclusive paragraphs of supporting information. This one applies to technical communication—this is also called the pyramid approach. Pyramid, because we discuss the most important information first.
- Rhythmic flow. Here, sentences sound lyrical, yet the composition of words is logical and thematic. This one applies to creative writing.
Your structure is how you wish to communicate a message: remember, it is the reason you often co-locate thought and process.
The example of finding a glass half-filled versus half-empty drives home the point: perspective is important. Important, I say, because it is your write-up. And, anything that you are describing should contain your words from your point of view. Some of us choose to stick to the realistic view of the glass being half empty. Some optimistically opine it to be half full. Others choose to poetically (Scientifically, is it?) consider it as one half filled with water, and the other half, with air. None of us are wrong.
A Point to Ponder
In my work time, I do action-driven writing. For some of my previous employers, I have also done empathy-driven writing, where each piece has a corresponding appeal. This kind of writing is easier to read (I find it to be that way.) and doesn’t always need people to have technical knowledge. Those of you who deal with the content side of the story will know what I am talking about.
And then there is storytelling—novel-ish writing. In some writer’s works that I have read, the description is so true that I remain awestruck. The empathy reflects on me. I become sad when the writing is sad. I become happy when the writing is likewise. It is blissful to realize that a few pieces of writing can make you admire the flow of emotions. I am lost in contemplation for some time. I have to take a couple of deep breaths before I can gather myself to come back to the remaining sections from the writer.
Words don’t convey anything until you give them the required context and structure. This means you must permit for their association—with either action or empathy. By permitting for associations, you can make words your silent ambassadors.
The thing about good writing is that both sense and simplicity lay its core. Your writing doesn’t always have to be thematic, emotional, or pinching. It must be reflective and truthful. All you should do is figure out if and how you can locate your inner self through your writing.