How I Recovered from Corporate Drone (Part 2)

In Part 1, a bit of self-diagnosis indicated I was suffering from an attack of Corporate Drone, so I started a three-step recovery effort. (This CD recovery program affects only the writing phase of technical documentation. It doesn’t address project management aspects. But full recovery does prescribe special attention to purpose and audience definition.)

When I suspect that my writing has started oozing Corporate Drone, here’s how I get rid of the numbing gray fog. (You can use the same tactics.)

Step 1. I make sure I know what I’m talking about.

This means understanding the big picture as well as sweating the small stuff. When interviewing subject matter experts, don’t accept high-level answers to questions. Drill down to the details. Then drill down even more. Vivid, compelling writing is crystal clear; it paints word pictures in sharp detail without bogging down in excess verbiage.

Step 2. I zero in on my primary audience.

This means focusing on the person who will read the report, the procedures, the process description or proposal. What does she need to know? What is important to her? Does he have a basic knowledge of the subject or is he a novice? What does he care about? I’m the writer, but the reader is in charge. If she isn’t, she’ll lose interest. Or he’ll become confused. In either case, mistakes will be made and readers will stop reading. Then, as Confucius said, “what ought to be done remains undone.” And the goal of infowriting remains unmet.

Step 3. I read what I’ve written — out loud.

If what I hear makes me cringe, I start over with Step 1.