November 26, 2008

Tech Writing = OCD?

Over at Ars today, Erica Sadun gives thanks for the iPhone SDK's documentation:
Thank you for the kick-ass SDK documentation. I know you have employed many OCD victims who would otherwise be wandering the street picking up litter and tidying our world and instead aimed them at creating precise and glorious help pages. Sure, it takes about five years to download each API update but oh, the beauty of it when it finally is installed!
I've often had a similar thought about my team. The LabVIEW Documentation team consists of some of the most detail-oriented people you will ever meet. We debate using "attend" vs. "participate in". We agonize over "both" vs. "either". We spend half an hour brainstorming the placement of a level 2 heading and worry over its effects on the help file table of contents. We nitpick over parallelism in bulleted lists, consistent descriptions of everything, and so many other things. We pester developers with questions, trying to nail down that one perfect way of describing a feature.

And the worst part about it is -- we like it :-) (Well, at least I do.)

I don't know if it qualifies as OCD, but I'm sure there's some sort of term for how we are. "Grammar Nazi" comes to mind, but that's really pejorative and, to me, relates to Web forums where you're correcting the grammar of strangers in a situation where that activity is not expected or encouraged. "Anal-retentive" could be another description, but again, that feels pejorative :-) "Detail-oriented" is good, I suppose. I would say that we just care a lot about presenting information in the most helpful, unambiguous way possible.

Ahh, see, I'm doing it again!