Technical Writing Fiction

On Outer Alliance Podcast #8, David Levine talked about having worked as a technical writer for some 15 years and then said something to the effect of "It's a point of great personal pride that I've never put a bulleted list in a piece of fiction."

I laughed out loud. Perhaps frightening a woman walking her dog nearby.

In most ways, the kind of writing that I do for work, API references, tutorials, administration overviews, best-practice descriptions, is very different from the kinds of things I write away from work, or at least I like to think so.

The truth is that I've learned a bunch about writing and about communicating in general from writing documentation. While my "professional background," doesn't include formal technological training, I definitely "broke in" because I was familiar with technology and could write, rather than being a particularly skilled or trained writer. Any more (just 2.5 years on,) I think the inverse is more true, but that's conjecture.

Technical writing has definitely shaped the evolution of my taste: a couple years ago, I found myself most drawn to complex tightly constructed prose in fiction. These days I mostly go for sparse clear concise prose that isn't particularly ornamented. Perhaps it's only really possible to tune the internal editor for one kind of style at a time.

Having said that, I will confess to feeling--and resisting--the urge to put a bulleted list or some other structured convention of software manuals in fiction.

It's the little things, really.

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