Your journey in technical writing
A discussion about technical writing and Drupal with AmyJune Hineline.
One aspect I love about the website is I get to interview lots of interesting people about what they do in technical communication. Thanks to AmyJune Hineline for this interview about her journey in technical writing.
Let's start with an introduction. What is your background in technical writing?
I'm AmyJune Hineline, a technical community advocate in the open source space and hospice nurse by trade.
My background in documentation really started while in nursing and having to take patient notes. Care notes need to be detailed and concise so the next nurse could understand and perform a treatment.
In the technology sector, I started contributing to the Drupal project's documentation in the form of READMEs in the code repositories. I also helped maintain several external documentation guides for contributed modules.
What is your role at Drupal?
My role in Drupal has evolved from being a contributor to now leading the Mentoring Initiative. I organize many local and regional camps and organize and lead workshops on how to contribute back to the project - there is space to collaborate and contribute no matter your role, skill set, or passion.
I also am on the Community Working Group's Community Health team where we work on tools and language around positive and collaborative communication.
How can folks use Drupal to manage a website?
Drupal is very robust, accessible out of the box, and allows for dynamic content, all while being open source. It integrates so well with so many other web technologies: APIs, content marketing tools, SEO, and so on. If you need something beyond the core code, chances are there's a module for it!
How do you approach technical writing on the web?
Technical writing on the web is different because your content consumer's attention span is shorter, they tend to scroll, scan, and read headings. Perhaps they are on their phone and the viewport is smaller, so economy of words is important.
Accessibility is very important for technical communicators. What should tech writers keep in mind so they can create accessible content?
A few recommendations:
- Use clear concise words and phrases
- Use familiar language and avoid buzzwords, cultural references, and jargon
- Break up content into digestible chunks, use headings and then bullet points
- Define acronyms, numeronyms, abbreviations upon introduction
- Use predefined reading levels. I recommend a 9th grade level.
- Use clear fonts and avoid special characters and emoticons. Think about low vision and folks who use screen readers.
- Add alternative text to anything visual, such as charts, images, tables, screenshots
- Use code blocks instead of images of code so folks can copy and paste
What is your favorite tool for technical writing?
I use BBEdit, a bare bones editor, and tend to write in markdown before I enter the content into my Git interface or Drupal editor.