Here's how the notorious British explorer Richard Francis Burton addressed a bitter enemy who was working behind his back to sully his reputation: "Sir,—I have been indebted to the kindness and consideration of my friend Dr. Shaw, for a sight of your letter addressed to him the 10th of October last from Zanzibar. I shall … Continue reading How to Rebuke a Character Assassin
A Rare Example of Responsible Rhetoric
In my early college years, I was introduced to extensive scholarship on the subject of rhetoric---a subject which, I was delighted to discover, has occupied the minds of great thinkers stretching back to Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, Quintilian, and St. Augustine. As a young student of writing and literature, I simply had no idea that there … Continue reading A Rare Example of Responsible Rhetoric
Why Renaissance Educators Were “Incredibly Invested” in the Verbal Arts
English professor Scott Newstok has feelings about the value of the Renaissance education model. In an interview with Brett McKay, he argues that education in general should focus less on passing tests and more on sharpening students' ability to think and write. McKay asks him why the Renaissance model of education is so effective in … Continue reading Why Renaissance Educators Were “Incredibly Invested” in the Verbal Arts
Spheres and Lanes
In her introduction to the April issue of Comment magazine, Anne Snyder begins with a troubling description of how citizens in the US are overwhelmed by current events and the brokenness of the world, and exhausted by incessant demands to take part in the culture wars. We no longer trust institutions such as "the church, … Continue reading Spheres and Lanes
To Kill Debate
The toxic rage over the abortion debate, where opponents are merely shouting their criticisms and assuming evil intentions without actually listening to each other, reveals a deeper social problem: A contempt for debate itself. And a contempt for debate is ultimately a recipe for the erosion of democracy. Debate is the price of our form of government. If you're not willing to pay it, then don't be surprised when you lose it.
"If the story confirms everything you want to believe about your enemies, pause before clicking that share or retweet button. It might be too bad to be true." This short quote from Collin Hansen of the Gospel Coalition encapsulates how Instagram news stories can prevent us from being sober enough the grim prospects of the war in Ukraine.
Do Attractive Documents Work Better?
Design expert Donald Norman has written that when people are anxious, they narrow their thought processes. Conversely when people are happy, they become more creative and imaginative at solving problems. If this is true, it means that one of the best things a technical writer can do is create beautiful content that moves readers to a happier, more adaptive emotional state. Or so I contend.
What If Technical Writers Thought of Themselves As Artists?
Technical writers usually think of their job in functional terms: to help end users know or do something. Creating beautiful content is typically not seen as a core part of the equation. But what if technical writers thought of themselves as artists whose aim is to create a thing of beauty? Isn't that, in the end, what makes for a good user experience?
Silence Is Damnation: The Informal Justice Code of Social Media
This is the informal code of woke social justice that I have come to observe in the era of social media: You absolutely must be doing social justice, and a doing a lot of it, or there is something very wrong with you. Yet you must not post about the social justice you are doing, because then you are virtue signaling. Yet if you say nothing, you shall be judged for your abominable silence. So you have to say something---but you better watch how you say it, or you may wish you had never said anything at all.
Best Practices for Content Reuse
For technical writers, content reuse it a great idea---but way more difficult in practice than it sounds. Here are some of my practical suggestions on how to do it in a sustainable way, based on my years of experience implementing it with tools like Confluence and Madcap Flare.