Published on October 25th, 2006 | by Rahel Bailie0
How understanding genre helps us understand structured content
Understanding the elements of a genre are critical to being able to understand and create structured content. Writing has always an art where the creativity is to say what you need to say within the structure of the genre. Poets, playwrights, musicians, and journalists are keenly aware of their genres, with the help of a strong editor and enforced by the demands of the marketplace. However, technical writers often have neither the luxury or the editor or the feedback of the marketplace to rely on for constructive feedback. And it’s a dead give-away that a writer has a lack of genre analysis when one expects delivery of a well-formed manual but instead is handed a stream-of-consciousness blob of narrative.
Structured writing, then, is a way to put the art back into technical writing. To undisciplined writers, this concept may seem to impose a constraint while seasoned writers will find the statement so incredibly obvious that they might wonder if they’ve missed the point. Similar to the way that musician compose within melody and lyrics to fit a genre, so writers of structured content similarly fit their content within their genres.
Next time – Gentle genre guidance: DITA, DocBook, and that whole XML thing