Scriptorium Publishing

content strategy for technical communication

Structure: resistance is futile (and a waste of time, really)

It’s been our experience that there are always a few writers in a technical writing department who will resist adapting to a new structured authoring workflow. Apparently, that sort of behavior is not limited to writers:

It is common among both developers and technical writers who work with xml to look on schemas (the XSD files) as a necessary evil. Something they grudgingly have to accept because it’s been directed from high, but not something they would use if they didn’t have to. They do their coding, or their writing, first, and then try to force it to fit the schema.

You might think it strange that I am picking on developers in a technical writing blog, but let me tell you, a lot of tech writers have the same attitude. The same people who happily accept that a style manual is necessary, and that a document template is compulsory, consider the schema a nuisance—something that makes their job harder, restricts their freedom and adds extra work.

It’s nice to see this topic addressed so directly and succinctly. Yes, the learning curve for working in a structured environment can be a bit of challenge, particularly if you’ve been writing in a template-based workflow for a long time. Also, there are some cases of poorly planned and implemented structures: if many authors are struggling with a structure, that may indicate there is a problem with the hierarchy itself. Beyond that, however, it is much harder to justify (or understand) the behavior of authors or developers who resist following an established structure, even though it’s there to make work easier.

Author: Alan Pringle

Content strategy for technical communication. Publishing (ebooks and print). Eating (preferably pastries and chocolate). Director of operations at Scriptorium.

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