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Wednesday, October 6, 2021

Ask Two Questions, Maybe Three

When you create a document, you need to ask two, maybe three questions. But at least, you need to ask two. So what these questions? They are:

- What is this thing I'm writing about?
- Who is the audience I'm writing for?
- What kind of document am I writing?

Why does it seem I waffle between two or three initial questions? Well, you may not need to ask the third question because it may come up naturally in your conversations with the SME(s).  Only ask the last question if you need to. Otherwise, the SME(s) may lose confidence in your ability as a technical writer.

But the first two questions, you should definitely ask when creating documents, especially if you're in a new setting. So why these two questions? Well, these two questions will help set the direction of your documentation. 

If you know what you're writing about and who you're writing for, it'll help you know what kind information to write in your document. Let's say you're writing a user guide on how to use a software for storing recipes and your audience are home cooks and chefs, you're not going explain the technical inner workings of the application. You're just going to show them step-by-step how to enter and save their recipes. That's it. 

When we approach documentation, we should take Mark Twain's advice when writing good stories. He said:

"A successful book is not made of what is in it, but what is left out of it."

So, let's focus on what to write and chisel out the rest. Our audience deserves it.

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