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June 20, 2022

Getting writers excited about DITA

We’ve had the pleasure of implementing DITA in many companies both large and small. Unfortunately, writers almost always have some trepidation about the move. At the same time, there’s a lot for writers to get excited about!

Here are some common remarks from writers—along with responses to encourage a positive outlook about the change.

But I don’t have time to learn all of this; I have writing to do

On the whole, technical writers are some of the quickest learners by trade. They need to learn new concepts and then be able to explain them in documentation. They do this every day, but they may forget that it applies to using the skills they learn instead of guiding others. Reminding them about their superpower will dispel this worry. 

But I can’t code, I’m a writer

Today’s authoring tools are amazing, and you don’t need to code. You can look behind the curtain to see the actual code, but the front end UI looks similar to traditional authoring tools. Most of the keyboard shortcuts are even identical from application to application. The authoring experience overall will only differ slightly from the current. 

But I can’t be creative with DITA

Many writers are concerned that following the “rules” of DITA will be too prescriptive and won’t allow them to create useful documentation. Because DITA’s structure was designed for technical writing, it already fits what the writers are doing anyway. Having the structure and rules defined allows the writers to focus on the actual content.  

But I can’t keep track of all of this

When writers begin to learn about DITA and they realize that they will be dealing with topics instead of publications—they generally begin to worry about how they will keep track of everything. A good CCMS is designed to track the status of the topics and where they are used. Metadata helps writers find what they need to edit. Maps create a relationship in the context of a deliverable which can help identify areas that need attention. It’s likely there is already a home-grown solution to keep track of these items already. 

In addition to the responses above to relieve some writer stress, you can point out some other advantages that are part of adopting DITA writers may not be aware of; such as the following benefits.

No more copy and paste

Copying and pasting material from one document to another is a thing of the past.  DITA reuse at the map, topic, or paragraph level means that you can update content once and it updates everywhere. Searching for content that needs to be updated is made easier once reuse is set up in the content. 

No manual page breaks

Traditional publishing methods meant that there were endless rounds of formatting tweaks when content was complete. DITA separates content from style and the styling is applied programmatically. Styles are applied based on the type of information instead of display properties. The cycle of endless formatting adjustments is avoided. It may be difficult at first for writers to let go of the control, but after a release or two, it becomes liberating. 

Last-minute branding changes are easy

With the combination of reuse and letting go of formatting issues, any last-minute branding or name changes become less tedious and more automated. Make the changes in the topics referenced and regenerate the output. That’s it; reuse replicates many of those changes, and the formatting is effortless. Stress from these types of changes is practically non-existent. 

Just as change is inevitable, so is resistance to change. Use these tips to negate some of the resistance. If you need help implementing DITA or making changes to your existing DITA implementation, contact us. We’d be thrilled to help.