Minimalist Writing

Bernard Aschwanden

Overview

This course is developed for people who need to reduce the volume and complexity of content. Learn best practices to help reduce the cost to develop, produce, and maintain materials. Cut the time and effort needed to work with content and improve the quality of deliverables. Learn why good design reduces the need for documentation and learn to work with developers to set and meet shared goals.

Learning Objectives

  • Identify the core audience that consumes your content and write accordingly.
  • Create clear, self-contained tasks so users can "scan and go" if they wish.
  • Support tasks with logical progressions of related topics.
  • Provide readers with realistic projects that can be accomplished simply.
  • Work with a variety of software tools to create minimalist based content.
  • Understand when and where to use images, tables, text, lists, and other organization objects.
  • Identify key issues to consider when to implement any minimalist idea and convert legacy content.

Please note the compressed schedule for this course, with six courses over two weeks, each 1.5 hours long.

Session Descriptions

Session 1: What is Minimalism?
Monday, 7 July
1:30-3:00 PM EDT (GMT-4)

Learn how minimalism got its start, the core principles of minimalism, and how it can benefit your authoring environment. Minimalist writing isn't just deleting content, it is writing to deliver a lot of value in as few words as possible. It is the conjunction between clarity and brevity.

Session 2: Know Your Audience, Write Accordingly
Wednesday, 9 July
1:30-3:00 PM EDT (GMT-4)

Identify who reads your materials; this makes minimalist writing much easier. Knowing your audience lets you give them the right information, in the right format, at the right time. And no more.

Session 3: Content Organization
Friday, 11 July
1:30-3:00 PM EDT (GMT-4)

Before applying minimalist techniques, find inconsistencies in your existing materials. By reorganizing content in a consistent way, it becomes easier to find repeated phrases, disjointed ideas, inconsistent text, and other barriers to minimalist writing. Once reorganized, information is easier to group into core information models.

Session 4: Information Models: Task, Concept, Reference, and More
Monday, 14 July
1:30-3:00 PM EDT (GMT-4)

Learn about DITA and information models that complement minimalist writing. Review and rework sample materials using best practices to write clear and consistent titles, develop easy to understand short descriptions, and present information in repeatable formats.

Session 5: Migrate and Create Minimalist Content
Wednesday, 16 July
1:30-3:00 PM EDT (GMT-4)

Use sample files to learn how to understand the audience, intended message, information model, and language rules for migrating and creating content. Identify relative strengths and weaknesses of content in both an original and revised set of sample documents.

Session 6: Hands-on Document Edits and Reviews
Friday, 18 July
1:30-3:00 PM EDT (GMT-4)

Review samples of your own content that you bring to the seminar and apply the strategies and ideas you have learned. Compare the original document with the new materials to see an immediate result of minimalism at work.

  

Presenter Biography

Bernard Aschwanden, founder and president of Publishing Smarter, is a recognized publishing technologies expert. He is a certified technical trainer and the author of numerous articles on XML-based publishing and single sourcing. The immediate past president of the STC Toronto Chapter, Bernard is also a senior member of the STC and the 2014-2015 Vice President. He teaches a variety of courses including XML/DITA and related technologies, best practices for structured authoring and content management, as well as DITA tools such as XMetaL and FrameMaker.