What do I want to be when I grow up?

Fractured Fairy Tales
Fractured Fairy Tales

Telling a story

Growing up, many of us learned to be truthful by hearing a story about George Washington not telling a lie about chopping down a cherry tree. We also learned from Aesop’s fables and Grimm fairy tales. Well, maybe Fractured Fairy Tales during Rocky and Bullwinkle. However, they were stories

Stories work for adults, too. “Frodo lives” was a call for environmental action in the 1960s and 1970s. (If you have only seen the movies and not read the books, you won’t get how the Lord of the Rings trilogy can do that.)

As I have said earlier, technical communications can be formulaic. There are simple, effective ways to tell someone how to interact with a web page. When giving a series of steps to complete an action, don’t confuse your readers by straying from verbs like select, enter, scroll, and drag. If you use “choose” instead of “select,” your readers will wonder if these are different actions. Long paragraphs do not scan easily. Keep it simple, essayist.

However, you can employ good communication techniques to generate enough interest to keep people reading. Tell the story of a journey—an epic journey—to accomplish something. Keep it familiar but remember that material to be localized in another language can’t depart from basic structure. You will have to include your steps, numbered from “1” up to “10,” but you’ve built excitement for the journey.

Do I always accomplish that as a technical communicator? Unfortunately, not. But I try every time.