Tech writing is creative!

Airplane with painted faceIn a recent discussion on LinkedIn, one of the groups I’m part of had a lively debate about the creative nature of technical writing. Someone asked an innocent question about the lack of creativity within the “voiceless” nature of documentation (think of instruction manuals or online help.) The onslaught of responses was truly impressive.

Almost everyone agreed that tech writing has a “voice,” even if that voice is a businesslike corporate voice. And what about creativity? You’d better believe it takes creativity to write a set of instructions. Designing a page requires creativity. Creating or selecting useful images requires creativity. And with the immense range of choices we have today, finding just the right medium requires creativity. (One of the toughest creative tasks is sticking to a page count–you’d be surprised how hard it can be to figure out what stays and what goes.)

To illustrate the importance of creativity–and even humor–in the dullest of tech writing, consider the airline safety video. If you fly frequently, you’ve either watched a preflight video or live presentation which demonstrates the seat belts, the oxygen masks, etc. It can be boring for even the safety-conscious among us. Yet airlines are legally required to present the same information before each and every flight.

However, there are a few airline safety videos that drive home this important information in a humorous and memorable way. The New York Times recently published a great article about this. Take time to read this article, and be sure to view the three example videos the author cites. You won’t be sorry.

And be sure to add your comments below!

A Seat Belt Reminder and a Smile

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