Radio and documentation. It sounds like a strange, if not incompatible, mix. But if you think about it for a moment, the parallels are staring you right in the face.
When writing documentation, my ideal model is a good radio report. Sounds kind of strange, doesn’t it? If you think about it for a moment, though, a radio report has all the elements of a good piece of documentation:
- It’s short and to the point
- Where necessary, it contains just enough background to orient the listener
- It contains all the important facts, compressed into small space in time
When crafted properly, task-based documentation does the same thing.
How to do it
That could (and has been) a book in itself. As I recall, more than a couple of books. My own experience in radio is limited. In my first year at journalism school I took the mandatory course in radio, and later did some freelance work for CBC Radio. To say that I’m rusty is a bit of an understatement.
But the Internet, as it often does, comes to the rescue. Here are some good resources on writing for radio:
- The basics of the network news style
- The writing style to employ when writing for radio.
- The BBC radio news style guide
- Advice on writing a radio script
Will this really help?
I think so. Exposing yourself to other writing styles, specifically non-fiction styles, can help improve your technical writing. Remember that technical writing isn’t just single sourcing, DITA, and all of that. It’s about words. That’s why it’s called technical writing … If you can distill all that information into a compact and easy to read format, then all the tools in the world aren’t going to make your documentation useful or usable.
Thoughts? As always, feel free to leave a comment.