2013 is well under way now, and it’s shaping up to be an exciting year for technical communicators. Judging by the constant buzz and the sheer volume of banter and bickering on the profession’s favorite discussion forums, this is a great time to be a writer. And the ever-growing amount of content that organizations need to capture and control offers a new Golden Age of opportunity for those with the skills and savvy.

But, as always, the pitfalls are still there. Here are three mistakes you'll want to avoid making during the coming months.


 Mistake #1: Thinking like a traditional writer. This is big. Our 2012 survey of documentation managers revealed that one of their toughest challenges is to get writers to stop thinking in terms of writing sequential narratives and make the shift in mindset that will enable them to create modules of discrete, independent content. So get ready to stop “writing” and begin designing modular, structured content instead.

Mistake #2: Thinking of yourself as a writer, and nothing more. As a technical communicator you owe it to yourself to take off those blinders. Writing is only part of your job description—keep in mind that most of the content you’ll be working with doesn’t exist anywhere yet. To be successful at capturing and controlling content you need to see yourself as a detective and a skilled interviewer as well as a user advocate—and very likely as something of a politician, too.

Mistake #3: Letting the technology dazzle you. No crystal ball is necessary to predict that new CMS technologies will continue to proliferate in 2013. Mastering new technologies is certainly part of the game, but don’t let all that new functionality take your focus off the fundamental task, which is using your skills to create clear, concise and effective communication. Maybe I’m biased by all my years of work with our technology-agnostic structured authoring methodology, but my instinct is always to put the users’ needs first, and the bells and whistles last.

Find out how the Information Mapping® method can help you develop best practices for presenting content on paper and on the web—register for our free webinar, Implementing Best Practices: Models and Templates and Standards, Oh My!