“We provide information that other people can use to do amazing things! Are you in?”

Yes! As is Sharon Burton, Associate Fellow with STC. Sharon inspired, entertained, and educated us on how we can provide quality information to help folks like engineers, developers, and others create amazing things.

In the midst of a large project, I’m so “down in the weeds” looking for information, formulating the procedures, or concentrating on the style guide that I forget that I like to write. I’m bogged down with the details and wonder “Why am I doing this?” Sharon helped me come up for air. “Oh, yeah – that’s why I’m focused on all these details. It’s all so I can help these end users – and me – do great things!”

At the recent Los Angeles Society for Technical Communication meeting, Sharon presented about topic-based authoring. Here’s what I took away:

  • Develop content based on scenarios and use cases.
  • A topic includes information to perform one procedure or understand one concept.
  • The audience is the user, so the topics are based on users’ needs.
  • Topics are the equivalent of a half page to four pages.
  • Circulate the topics for review when they are ready.
  • Each topic stands alone.
  • Maximize content reuse.
  • We can translate topics, which is faster than translating entire chapters or manuals.
  • Use a consistent writing style with an active voice and use the second person pronouns.

Learning from Sharon is a treat. Learning about topic-based authoring from Sharon is a must!