Technical writing

My team takes verbatim notes during meetings: as you speak, you see your initials appear in the notes document, followed by an interpretation of what you’ve just said.

Lately, I’ve been noticing how far these two expressions can diverge. Sometimes the gap between what I try to communicate and what others write down is comically (or tragically) wide!

“Hell is other people”, of course, and I can’t change the basics of the human condition. But still, I think there might be a way to improve the situation somewhat.


After thinking through it, I realized a few things:

So, to work up to expressing myself more clearly in meetings, I thought I would start with clearer writing first–arguably a more important objective anyway, since I spend most of my time using written communications:

After I improve my writing, then I’ll deal with speaking. (Or more optimistically, I hope that I’ll see improvements in ability to communicate in meetings thanks to improvements in my writing.)

Google’s technical writing course for engineers

To that end, I spent two afternoons working through Google’s Technical Writing One/Two courses. I haven’t done other technical writing courses, but given that this resource is free, relatively quick, and quite useful, I endorse it! I won’t attempt to summarize the course, because you should work through it yourself. But here are some of the highlights:

Many of the ideas in the course are seemingly common sense. Even so, I found these concepts worth reading and thinking about: they help me identify patterns, as well as principles underlying those patterns, in my writing.

Next steps

I want to take more courses, but for now, practice is the best teacher. If you know of good resources for improving technical writing and speaking skills, please let me know, and I’ll add to this post.