Stealth, Skill, and Proper Grammar

The Art of the Tech Writer Ninja

by Todd Phillips, published 20 May 2014

Welcome to the site. Be careful where you sit; I can never keep track of where I left my shuriken.

This site is a pet project I've been looking forward to ever since the .NINJA top level domain (TLD) was announced. I envision this site being a place you can go to find ideas for technical writing, reviews and tips for various tools, and maybe find something that gives you a chuckle.

I've been a technical writer since early 1995 when I volunteered to write Knowledge Base articles while working the phones for Windows Support at Microsoft. While only looking for a way to contribute to the success of the team, I discovered a career that has been my passion ever since. Only one job was better: teaching. I loved teaching, but I find that technical writing is the same thing in all of the best ways. I am communicating with people who want to learn something, and I interact with them in a way that lets me enjoy their progress without getting in the way. It's a great feeling when everything works out properly, especially when I can watch someone learning from my work and they aren't even aware of the work that went into the writing. They only notice the excitement of learning what they came for.

Aha! There it is. The parallel between technical writing and Ninjas. The best technical writing should never get in the way of the reader. The person reading the material should never feel that there is anything between them and the subject matter. The writer should be stealthy, unnoticed by the reader. Technical writing isn't about the author's ego, it's about relaying technical information in a clear, concise manner targeted at the audience for maximum comprehension. Good technical writing should never be about the author's vocabulary or cunning twist of phrase.

The best technical writing should never get in the way of the reader.

The Ninja

Unless you're writing about cleaning mouse balls. If you are, then a subtle twist of phrase raises a simple task to the heights of art and humor.

The .NINJA TLD celebrates people who are so good at what they do that they claim Ninja status. "Bob is a real Ninja at Photoshop" or perhaps "I'm beyond good at graphic design... I'm a Ninja." Being a Ninja is similar to claiming Jedi status but without the necessary licensing from George Lucas. I'm not claiming to be a Ninja at technical writing. I do, however, find the concept of a technical writer Ninja to be very amusing.

NOTE: No Ninjas were harmed in the making of this site. Any similarities to Ninjas living or dead is purely coincidental.