Based on the number of requests I’ve had to write articles recently, there seems to be a big demand for testers who can write well about software testing. I’ve been asked by a few different companies to write articles on their behalf. Sometimes I’ve been asked to write posts for someones’s blog. I’ve only done that once with Quick Testing Tips which was a lot of fun. But generally, I find it hard enough to be inspired on my blog, let alone writing for some-one else's!
I thought putting down what helps me, might help a few testers out there. Writing well is a great skill for a tester to have. Think of all those persuasive bug reports you will be able to write. It's also a great way to consolidate and refine your thinking. (A great read on this topic is chapter is Maria Hammeren’s chapter entitled “writing as a method of reflection” in the book Dialogue Skill and Tacit Knowledge.)
1) Write from the heart.
Personally, I’m only motivated to write when I have something I feel passionate about. Thats a good thing because you can create a bond with the audience. But it can be unhelpful too if other people are relying on you to write something.
Perhaps passionate is the wrong word, but writing posts that resonate with you reach out in some way to your audience. Perhaps it's the choice of words you use, I’m not sure, but your readers will pick up on your sincerity.
2) Be yourself
That is, don’t try and be the expert unless you have personal knowledge about what you are writing. In practical terms, avoid trying to sound more experienced than you are. Be honest about your experiences.If you do write on a topic (say automation) in a authoritative manner, you had better be able to back it up with fact and substance.
An excellent example of someone who does this well is Michael Bolton. I believe in what he writes because he cites references and backs up his statement with examples and facts.
3) Give yourself Permission
I have James Bach to thank for pointing this one out in a tweet. Its so true.
Give yourself permission to write your thoughts. They do count and they are of value. Trust me on this one. A great example of some-one who does this is Lanette Creamer. I admire they way she is so forthright with her ideas.
4) Proof Read
I tend to write posts 2 or 3 times before I let them loose on the world. Seriously. This is how I work.
a) Write down sentiment anyhow, anyway. Don’t worry about what it looks like
b) At this point I feel free to explore, sometimes I stray from my originally intended topic to the point where I have a compeltely new article.
c) Read the post (try reading it aloud), and rewrite it, move paragraphs around to get a better flow. Cut out paragraphs that prevent a nice flow through the post
d) Take a break, do something different
e) Come back re-read the post, edit it. check for spelling then send it
A trap you can fall into though is over proofing. If you feel really strongly about something, and you leave it to the next day, you may chicken out and decide not the send it. Sometimes posting in the heat of the moment is a good idea. (Hey I never said writing was clear cut!)
5) Give credit
If you get an idea based on a book you read, share that. If something inspires you, share the link.
6) Be Original
No-one wants to hear trite stuff that parrots what others say. Believe me. Make your content your own. If you are talking about a hot topic, try and put your own personal spin on it. What are your thoughts on it? Don’t parrots a thought leader, their stuff is far better than yours anyhow.
7) Be Precise
Often it's a struggle to come up with a precise word that reflects exactly what you want to say. But please, don’t be lazy about it. The english language is diverse and there’s bound to be a word that aptly describes what you want. Use a thesaurus if you have to, or do what I do and wait until the right word comes to you. Your readers will appreciate it.
8 ) Why do you write?
Here is Bernard-Henry Levy on his view on writing. Great stuff. In particular what drives him to write is interesting:
I am not writing to be loved. There is as much pleasure to being hated as being loved. I write in order to convince. In order to win. In order to change, even just a little, the world. I recently launched an appeal on Twitter supporting those attacking the official websites of the Tunisian regime. An intellectual calling for hacking doesn’t happen very frequently, and there is a stir. I am happy that it succeeded. I care about being heard.
Whats your driver? Is it your ego, is it SEO ratings or is it something else? I started writing to get ratings for my website, but now I write for the pure joy of writing, because I get a kick out of crafting a beautiful piece of work.
The only way you are going to get any good at writing is by practicing. How are you going to practice, thats up to you, but writing a blog is a good start. Don’t aim for perfection, just get out there and write something. I will never forget my first blog post. It was the equivalent of hello world! (I wish I still had it, I would link it here)
[By the way, when I’m talking about writing, its mostly in the context of articles, blogs etc.]