Recently, I came across a post on Reddit that was named “How a career in technical communication has ruined me as a letter writer”. It was a fun story about the way the TechComm best practices eventually changed the topic starter’s behavior in private life. In comments, people of other professions shared similar experiences. It was amazing how, even after decades, work skills still largely influenced the people’s actions, in that particular case—their writing style. It was both fun and true, but more importantly, this text made me wonder if my work has triggered any changes in my behavior outside the office walls.
In each profession, people usually work hard to gain the needed expertise and do their best to succeed. We, InfoDevs, are no exception. Being cultivated for months and years, some of the work skills inevitably become our second nature. They change our mind, so that we continue to live in the “working” mode wherever we are—even being far away from our office desks. After all the drill and training, can we notice the influence of our profession on our ways and habits?
After careful consideration, I did find some changes, and put them on my own top chart.
- I put much more importance on writing.
The notions of consistency, minimalism, and clarity, together with the need to provide well-structured and grammatically correct content, have changed the way I write non-technical texts. I became a demanding writer of any kind of personal stuff, even if I am the only reader of my scribblings. Never before have I deleted half of the written text to make it as clear as possible—but I do it now. I do not tolerate incorrect grammar, shortenings, or randomness in structure. In other words, I try to apply TechComm best practices to my everyday writing, and I like that.
- My “editor mode” is always on.
The reading habit was one of the first things I have clearly noticed to change. Now, reading just tastes differently. I cannot stop imagining myself holding a red pen in my hand while reading. I analyze the structure of a sentence, word after word, as if I am about to edit it. On my way to work, I stare at posters and fight the strange urge to fix them: rewrite a bit here, rearrange a bit there.
- I crave for alignment and order.
The same notion of consistency is influencing my visual perception of the world. The need for visual harmony is in human nature, but working in TechComm pushes that need to extreme. Those who shudder whenever they see books, papers, or any other objects not aligned geometrically on a desk—I am with you on this one.
- I am better at explaining things.
I really hope that TechComm is making me better at explaining technical (and not only technical) things “in real life”. I try to make my explanations clear and simple, just like a procedure in a manual. Hard learners and first-time users have ceased to irritate me. I accepted the fact that people have a legitimate right of not knowing. I practice that approach every time I explain to an elderly relative how to use a smartphone.
- I ask lots of clarifying questions.
As InfoDevs, we do many interviews with subject matter experts about technical things that we have little to no idea about. Under a tight schedule, we have to gather and structure a piece of complex information. It is obvious that we ask many questions, some of which might seem naive or plain stupid—and it is OK. The more we ask, the better the quality of our output is. This experience has been of high value for me, and in my day-to-day communication, I feel more comfortable with asking more clarifying questions to get full picture without worrying about looking not knowledgeable enough.
- I am a demanding user.
Similar to my reading habit, my interaction with applications has changed. Documenting features of elaborate applications inevitably makes me critically evaluate their interface, UI text, and overall usability. When not at work, I cannot help trying to explore various behaviors of the applications meant for my personal use. I started evaluating them more critically, paying attention to usability and specifics of design and interface. By the way, I really think that the Add New button of my note-taking app should be placed at the bottom of the screen where it is finally reachable.
- I stopped aiming at perfection. I really did.
As they say, the best is the enemy of the good. Once, I believed that perfectionism is the ultimate goal of personal growth, so I tried to cultivate a perfectionist streak in me. Later on, my experience taught me that I could not waste precious time trying to build an ideal sentence. Do not get me wrong: I aim for the best, but at the same time, I am taking responsibility for my choices without unproductive doubt and hesitation. Unlike other habits that are mostly automatic and unconscious, this one is more like a selected tactics taken from work to private life.
- I make lists of everything.
Whenever possible, I create lists. Actually, lists were my thing long before I became an InfoDev, but now these lists have bullets. This habit results in creating various to-do lists, bulleted lists in personal letters, or the list in this blog post.
I can conclude that TechComm has affected many of my habits, making me more sensitive and critical to certain linguistic and technical aspects. Quite possibly, some of the changes are still left unnoticed, and more changes are yet to come—and stay. Once InfoDev—forever InfoDev, indeed. And what about you? How has your profession changed you? What habits would you put on your own list?