Does Your Writing Want To Be Read? #

There are hundreds, thousands, even millions of topics to read about. Why would anyone bother reading about this?

Even within each topic, someone else has or is going to write about it. Why should someone read your writing and not theirs?

Any topic can be exciting. Any topic can be interesting. To the right audience, with the right words, explaining the right parts of that topic. As a technical writer, your job is to figure out how to tap into that.

If nobody wants to read your writing, you’ve failed. The reader’s going to skip through your text when they really shouldn’t. They’re going to be too unfocused to really end up understanding it, only (maybe, possibly) picking up enough to pass a test about it and that’s it.

How to Excite #

Tell stories, but don’t ramble #

This doesn’t mean ‘include random factoids about some stranger’ or ‘describe some trip that you went on 15 years ago for no reason’… though you can do that if you want. Your writing should follow a progression. A happened, B followed – and finally C.

If you want to describe how a motherboard works, including some history about why and how the motherboard came about can make whoever’s reading want to find out about it. If you do it wrong, the story about how we got from early computers to the machines of today might come off as useless fluff though.

Why do people like stories? Because they’re (usually) a fun way to convey what’s happened and give information. If you tell a story well, you teach whoever’s listening something and they’re interested every step of the way. If you don’t tell it well, they want to wander off halfway through.

Not Amazing

The Motherboard (then called the Planar) was developed by IBM for the IBM Personal Computer in 1981. They made it to replace the earlier ‘backplane’ system that was in use, and it reduced the engineering and economic costs of both building and buying computers.

‘IBM-Compatible’ computers are now called ‘PCs’, and the motherboard inside acts as the bus that enables graphics processing, audio processing, and networking abilities for the higher-level operating system.

In the old ‘backplane’ system, every part of the computer was separate and was just combined with cables and connectors. This made things hard, because the different parts of the computer couldn’t work together as well.

This gives information, yes. It explains when the motherboard was developed, by who, and why. It then jumps into the future and explains all the amazing things the motherboard does these days (in a bit of a clunky, hard-to-read way).

But then it jumps back in time for… no real reason? Why explain the backplane now when we’ve already moved on? The story’s told out of order and it’s giving us too much information in some parts (the IBM Personal Computer, wow how interesting).


For almost as long as there’s been home computers, the motherboard has played an integral part in the whole ‘making computers work’ thing.

In the olden days of computing, before fancy words like ‘graphics’ and ‘online’ were used, every component in a computer was a separate circuit board. It would take a lot of wires – and a lot of boards – to assemble even the simplest machine. Lots of boards meant computers were hard to design, manufacturing them was difficult, and all that came with extra cost.

Then IBM came along. Instead of a lot of separate boards, most functions were put onto just one: the Planar. Eventually the name ‘motherboard’ stuck, and what we’re left with today is that one amazing board on your computer that’s responsible for controlling everything else in there.

There’s a charm to this explanation. A voice that seems distinct and resonates through the whole piece.

It gives some overview. Then it explains how things were before motherboards, and the issues. Then it explains that they were made, and what motherboards do today. Past, then future. No jumping around timelines – this is fairly simple and easy to follow.

In the above explanation, the name ‘IBM Personal Computer’ was mentioned, and I said that was too much weird historical info. But in this example, I mention that motherboards used to be called the ‘Planar’. I think the mention works here because it’s a curious, fun little oddity (‘planar’, seriously?) – and ‘IBM made a computer called the IBM Personal Computer’ isn’t anywhere near as unexpected or interesting.

Be Confident #

You’re the writer here. You’re the one writing this content and deciding what language it should include.

Corporate, committee-driven text is dull. Amazingly dull. So much so that I’d rather grab an electric fence than read a full document of it. If you care about sticking to a professional tone so much that your writing loses every ounce of flair and excitement, readers will pick up on that.

You don’t need to put similies about volcanoes and stories about lions being zapped with lasers into every paragraph that you write. But don’t be afraid to show that you’re in control of your text. That you’re able to include a voice and a tone into it.

This is your shot to explain this concept or topic to someone who probably doesn’t want to listen. Don’t make them regret sitting through your writing – make them understand the topic and make them enjoy reading your text as much as you enjoyed writing it. And if you haven’t enjoyed writing it, then find some way to enjoy it! Can you include some fun, unexpected fact or example? Can you slip in some note or wording that makes it past the censors? Have fun with it and your readers probably will as well.

Not Amazing

Thank you for purchasing WordDefender 2.7.4b. This word processing application lets you write text your way. There are many advanced features included, such as:

  • Tone detection: checks your writing to confirm it matches the given sample tone.
  • Format autocompletion: detects the current document format and suggests autocompletions.
  • Review mechanisms built-in: enables other writers to add comments quickly and easily.

This manual describes how to enable and use these features while writing.

Snore. This is… fine, but it’s so boring that I want to go to sleep. This is corporate drivel, and while it might be what some companies want, it won’t inspire any feeling or action at all in the reader.

Every sentence in this piece of text feels like it was passed by three middle-managers for approval. There’s no life or energy in it.


Welcome to WordDefender 2.7 – the latest and greatest word processor on the market. We’ve designed this app to help you write with advanced features, and by getting out of your way when you’re in a flow state.

Here are some of the tools that’ll improve your writing:

  • Tone Detection: Have you ever been halfway through a document and had trouble finding which word or phrase sounds right? Tone Detection keeps track of how your file reads, suggesting appropriate words when it seems like you’re stuck.
  • Format Autocompletion: Rather than figuring out which type of report or what script format would be best before starting, Format Autocompletion will suggest the most appropriate format after you’ve started putting content on your page.
  • Review Mechanisms: If you’re like me, getting someone else to double-check your work before sending it out is always helpful. WordDefender makes it easy, integrating with your existing chat software to let you easily send and receive feedback from other writers.

Now isn’t that a little more exciting? Doesn’t it feel like one person wrote that, and that they enjoyed writing it? The energy that was brought into the writing process comes out in the text, plain as day.

“the latest and greatest word processor on the market” – it’s a bit cocky, sure, but it feels like something they’re actually proud of presenting to whoever’s reading. And they don’t overspecify the version number 2.7.4b and bog down the text in the process. It feels like whoever said ‘you should write a manual’ didn’t get in the way or micromanage the result, they just helped the writer get excited about the project and let them write.

Don’t get me wrong, you don’t need to (and shouldn’t) ignore any and all valid feedback about what you’ve written. But keep enough of that spark in there that it’s clear you enjoyed writing whatever it is.