The changing nature of content

Technology has changed enormously over the last 70 years. But have technical communication standards kept up sufficiently to reflect these changes? It appears that some of the most successful software companies are breaking generally accepted best practice in technical writing – a trend that clearly should get us thinking.

Text by Ellis Pratt


If you were going back in time twenty or twenty five years and found yourself in a classroom learning about technical writing, you’d probably find it was almost identical to classes on this subject offered today. Technical communicators tend to assume that technical communication best practices, which have been taught for the past 25 years, and even further back in time, are still appropriate today.

Yet, there are developments that are prompting the question if the commonly accepted approaches are still the best way to go in all situations.

Let me list a few examples:

  • Mozilla, the developer of Firefox, reported that a change to a more conversational and friendly style of writing Help topics resulted in a 13.1 percent increase in page hits. The re-written pages were helpful to 800,000 more people per year, providing a significant reduction in support calls.
  • Other leading web-based ...