What can the tabloids teach a tech writer?

Do you know how Kate Moss feels about her million dollar tattoo? Are you familiar with the secrets of Tom Cruise’s scientology marriage? Do you even know who Elizabeth Olsen is?

No?

Well, maybe you need to put your structured authoring aside for one minute. Take a break from your bulleted lists and procedural steps. Check your ‘content snobbery’ at the door and explore what is going on in the real world of reader-engagement.

We tech writers are always complaining that no one reads the online help. We work so hard to make sure it’s accurate, up-to-date, comprehensive and concise. So, why do so many ungrateful users ignore it?  The hard truth—because it’s quite boring.  A desperate user may turn to our carefully crafted instructions when things go wrong, but they will never say:

“Now, I’ll just make a lovely cup of tea, put my feet up and read that online help”.

What can we do to change this perception? Well, I think we can take a few lessons from the world of tabloid journalism. This morning, I locked the kids in the house and escaped to the garden to read the Sunday newspaper. As usual, I worked my way through the main news; politics, economics and social dysfunction. Then it was time for dessert—the Sunday Magazine.

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