For many this is the first work day of 2013. As with popular tradition, people across the world have made New Year’s resolutions. Many will focus on losing weight or otherwise getting in better shape, focus on their finances, or improve some other aspect of their personal lives. But what about work life or, more specifically, your content development practices?
The new year gives us, whether by project/workload cycle or by fresh outlook, a chance to seed improvements into how we get our work done. As you’re settling into your work day (sifting through emails, sitting through back-to-work meetings, or what have you), think about your successes and struggles in 2012. What went well that you would like to continue? What went wrong that you’d like to avoid? And, what more can you do to make things better?
Here are some ideas to think about as you approach content development in 2013.
Herd the Cats
Unless you already work in an environment that functions like a well-oiled machine, chances are you receive information and develop content in many different ways. Perhaps you have multiple writers or teams in many different departments producing a wide range of information supporting different needs (sales, marketing, support, development, documentation, etc.). It might be a good time to look into ways of corralling that information and save everyone some time and effort in producing their content. Whether you use a wiki, a content management system, or shared network folders, it’s a good idea to start talking with your co-writers across your organization about sharing information and resources. It will help bring consistency to the information being pushed out to various channels, and will save everyone some time and effort in finding/creating the core information to work with.
Simplify Your Language
One of the most common questions posted to writing forums in 2012 more or less read, “how do I word/explain this?” Many times the discussion around these questions boiled down to use of terminology. As writers, we strive to clarify what we write as much as possible. Sometimes this good intention results in using multiple terms for the same thing or action. As you review your existing content, look for these instances and identify other possible candidates and begin to standardize your use of terminology. The ideal to aim for is a single noun or verb for a specific thing or action. This will ensure you always instruct the reader in the same manner about the same thing you’re writing about, and will eventually eliminate the need to ask, “how do I word/explain this?”
Document Your Documentation
I know, I know… You barely have enough time to get things written and out the door as it is. But consider the amount of time you might spend developing a writing convention, cross-referencing other information, or explaining to co-workers where to look or how to do something in your content development processes. Style guides are a great start, but it’s important to document all that you do to avoid making the same mistake twice or spend time tackling the same task via brute force. Document every “how do I”, “where is”, and “how to handle” question your team asks, whether it be about the products your company develops, the tools you use in your daily work, or the style in which you write. It doesn’t need to be formally produced documentation, but something reasonably managed and easy to query.
I hope you find these few ideas helpful as you plan your work year. If you have any work-related resolutions you’ve already made, please share them in the comments. Best wishes for a productive and successful year!