A few years ago, Steffen Frederiksen gave an interview about structured writing to a Swedish journalist. He talked about consistency, modularity, content reuse and all the other goodies of structured writing.
The journalist asked, “But what about the writer? Isn’t it terribly boring, being all modular and consistent?”
the answer was – and still is – the following:
“When I am trying to make my new cable TV box work, manual in hand, desperately looking for the information I need – in that situation, nothing in the entire World concerns me less than how the writer felt when creating this manual!”
And that actually captures my message rather nicely:
- We create business content to help readers or content consumers – human as well as bots – getting their job done
- As authors of technical content, we do not create content just to allow ourselves to have fun
- Remember that normally you have a lot more readers than writers, sometimes thousands more
Not saying that writers having fun is bad, or that the content creation process should be ignored – not at all. We have to make it fun to write good content. We have to make it as painless as possible to review and approve content and we have to dramatically improve our content processes.
But if a writer thinks it is more interesting to write a manual if he can use sophisticated words and sentences, thereby making life miserable for the reader (me, with the cable box manual in my hand), then we are missing the point.
And if internal efficiencies make the resulting content less relevant and less useable for the reader, then we are heading in the wrong direction.
For example, think of the owner’s manual for your new Legend Sublime SUV. If the manufacturer has bundled content for different models, engine sizes, engine types, and interior packages into one manual, the internal efficiencies have been used to suppress what the reader really needs.
So, never lose track of the ultimate reason for all of this work on content: “It’s the readers, stupid!”