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From the Tech Writing 101 workshop at Write the Docs AU 2019

Sydney hosted the annual conference of Write the Docs Australia this week. As part of the conference, I ran a Tech Writing 101 workshop. It was a very rewarding experience. If you ever consider running a conference or workshop for a group of technical writers, do it! Tech writers are an engaged, humour-loving, smart group of people.

The workshop

The workshop teaches the principles and patterns of effective technical writing. Before the event, the participants do some pre-reading. Then, during the two-hour workshop, we do a series of exercises and discussions based on the principles in the pre-reading. This is a good way of cementing the patterns into your brain. The next time you write an overlong sentence, or use the passive voice, you’re likely to recognise the anti-pattern and do something to correct it.

We had around 45 participants at the workshop during the conference. Here’s a shot of the room during the workshop. At this stage, the participants had just finished one of the exercises and were discussing their solutions with their partners:

Three assistants helped with running the workshop. They walked around the room answering questions, assisting with logistics, and generally making sure everyone had a good experience. A big thank you to:

The Tech Writing 101 workshop was developed by tech writers at Google to train engineers and others in the principles of effective technical writing. Google is currently preparing a revised, improved set of pre-reading and presentation content, which will be available for tech writers all over the world who want to run the workshop. Stay tuned for news on this front.

What else happened at the conference?

Write the Docs Australia 2019 was jam-packed with talks, workshops, lightning talks, and unconferences. Take a look at the full program.

Here’s the Twitter hashtag: #wtdau2019.

Thanks so much to all the organisers and attendees. Write the Docs AU 2019 was awesome. See you at Write the Docs AU 2020!

Join us for Tech Writing 101 workshop at Write the Docs Australia

As part of the Write the Docs Australia 2019 conference, we’re running a two-hour workshop on the principles and techniques of technical writing. You don’t need to be a tech writer to qualify for the workshop, and Write the Docs welcomes anyone who’s interested in technical documentation. Do come and join us!

Tech Writing 101 is a class developed by tech writers at Google to train engineers and others in the principles of effective technical writing. Everyone at Write the Docs Australia Conference 2019 is welcome. For tech writers and others, the class offers an interactive, discussion-filled approach to learning tech writing patterns.

Date and venue

  • Date and time of the workshop: Friday 15 November at 2.45pm.
  • Location: Justice and Police Museum, Sydney. See the map and venue details.

Workshop details

Tech Writing 101 consists of two parts:

  • Pre-work that you should read before the class. Don’t be put off! The pre-work is full of interesting patterns and points for discussion:
  • A two-hour workshop at Write the Docs Australia 2019, where you integrate the principles from the pre-work into your writing practices. The interactive format of this class has proved to be an effective way of learning the material. And it’s fun!

Training the trainers: Google is planning to make the course material available for tech writers all over the world who want to run the workshop. You can take part in the workshop purely as a participant, or you can have a dual purpose in mind: take part in the workshop and at the same time observe the facilitator and assistants, with a view to running the workshop yourself sometime in the future.

Your workshop hosts are three tech writers from Google:


  • Read through the prework, so that you can enjoy discussing it during the class:
  • Bring a laptop with WiFi capabilities. (A laptop is not essential, but it makes things easier. During the workshop you’ll write some short pieces and review the work of other participants. Having a keyboard and editing facilities helps.)

Cost (included in conference admission fee)

The workshop fee is included in your conference admission. There is no extra charge for the workshop.

Who’s welcome

All conference attendees are welcome! The workshop is intended for people who want to understand the basic principles and techniques of technical writing. The workshop material is tailored for engineers, and is suitable for new technical writers, editors, UX designers, and anyone else interested in technical communication.

Experienced technical writers are sure to enjoy the content too, both as a refresher and as a reminder of how debatable technical language can be.

The workshop format is highly discursive and entertaining. You’ll find yourself debating the principles as you apply them. The material is designed to stimulate such discussions.

The venue?

No, this is not a picture of the venue. It’s just a building that I found interesting on a recent trip to Prague. I’m also rather taken with the reflections in the windows, showing the windows of the opposite building for a nice Renaissance effect:

Invitation to a Tech Writing 101 workshop, Melbourne, November

Are you a software engineer wanting to learn the patterns of technical writing? Or a technical writer wanting to refresh the ABCs of our craft? Or someone who loves debating and exercising good writing styles? Join us for a Tech Writing 101 workshop in Melbourne, Australia, on Thursday, 15th November.

The workshop is part of the Write the Docs AU conference, and the cost of the workshop is included in the conference registration.

Quick reference

Workshop name: Tech Writing 101

Date & Time: Thursday, 15th November 2018, 2.30pm – 4.30pm

Location: Library at the Dock, 107 Victoria Harbour Promenade, Melbourne, Australia

Signup: Register for the Write the Docs AU conference

Prework and what to bring

Before attending the workshop, you need to do a small amount of pre-reading (about half an hour).

This is where you discover that tech writing patterns are interesting and fun.

On the day of the workshop, bring a laptop with a text editor and an internet (WiFi) connection to do the exercises.

Workshop overview

The workshop leads you through a series of exercises to improve the clarity, readability, and effectiveness of your writing. You’ll work in pairs, learning from an experienced Google technical writer (me) and from each other.

Topics include the importance of knowing your audience; what can go wrong when you use passive voice; how to avoid getting tangled up in long sentences and disorganised paragraphs; how lists have taken over the world.

By the end of the session you’ll also think differently about toothbrushes.

During the workshop, you’ll apply the principles you’ve read in the prework. We’ve found this method of learning is highly effective. And it’s just plain fun. The workshop has been run at SREcon in Europe 2017 and at SREcon in the US in 2018, where it was very well received. People said they came away with useful skills and cleaner teeth.

Who’s welcome

The intended audience for the workshop is people who’re interested in learning how to write efficiently and effectively. That includes software developers, support engineers, UX specialists, product managers, technical writers, editors – well, really, everyone who needs to write technical content.

I hope to see you there!

Instead of a picture of a toothbrush (as that’d be a spoiler) here are some patterns from a recent walk in the bush:

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