Listen! Do you want to know a secret?

– Anindita Basu, with inputs from Rachna Ganguli and Anagha Chandratrey

Click to enlarge.

  • A is for Adobe.  The company that left Anindita with the distinct impression that it thinks that that the techcomm world revolves around it. Also see F and R.
  • B is for Beta.  It stands neither for the second letter in the Greek alphabet nor the second brightest star in a constellation. It stands for not-yet-ready releases and is an excellent medium for techcommers to get feedback on their work.
  • C is for content. That which makes the techcomm world go round.
  • D is for DITA.  That thing which cures all ills.  Sane voices suggest otherwise but people still see through the glass darkly.
  • E is for English.  A language much maligned by a tiny, pint-sized apostrophe, which, if misaligned, can even become a comma. E is for editors. That group of people who are haplessly left with correcting the thats and whichs when what they’d dearly like to do is spend time on indexes, navigation, and coherence and cohesion.
  • F is for FrameMaker (See A). F is for feedback. A message where the message is often confused with the messenger, often unjustly.
  • G is for Google.  It is a help authoring tool that saves a lot of SME time (see S).
  • H is for Help. A verb and a noun (See the possibility related V). Help is a privilege. You may want it but not get it.
  • I is for information. Information is a noun that cannot stand on its own; it must always be used as an adjective. Information design, information architecture, information developer, and information overload, for instance.
  • J is for coffee and pictures. As in, Java and JPEG.
  • K is for knowledge.  Of, besides writing, the tools, domains, and processes.
  • L is for listening.  It stands for the characteristic of being alert and ready to hear anything that might lead to knowledge (see K).
  • M is for multimedia, an umbrella term for anything that moves, creates noise, and can be packaged.
  • N is for No. As in, “No, I will not document how it should work; only, how it does indeed work”, “No, I will not put this screenshot here because …”, “No, this will not go into an install guide because….”
  • O is for obfuscation.  So long as obfuscation exists, so will a technical communicator.  If you do not know what obfuscation is, here is an example: “The relationship, which I might tentatively venture to aver has not been without a degree of reciprocal utility and even perhaps occasional gratification, is approaching the point of irreversible bifurcation and, to put it briefly, is in the propinquity of its ultimate regrettable termination.”
  • P is for PDF.  It was born in 1993. Other births that year include Microsoft Windows NT and the republics of Slovakia and Czech.
  • Q is for  curiosity. Why should I…? How does this…? When will it…? If I do this, what will….? What’s the difference between…? What is the weight of the moon?
  • R is for RoboHelp (See A). R is for respect. An emotion that causes much existential angst among techcommers.
  • S is for scrum. It means giving daily updates to your team and then running back to do the work you yourself promised to. S is for SME.  It means the fount of knowledge from which information must be gleaned. S is for substance (See C). S is for style. It is something best only followed, not tampered with.
  • T is for Twitter.  A medium used almost exclusively to pimp blog posts, product launches, and rave reviews. T is for TWIN. Bonded for life.
  • U is a letter so important that it must never be used in isolation. U is royalty and must always be teamed with other letters, like this: UX, UA. U is the reason techcommers exist; U is for users.
  • V is for vision. That which makes techcommers put descriptions in alt text, pick the reds and greens with care, and prefer lists to tables. The ability to see beyond the obvious, to ‘write’ for everyone.
  • W is for wiki.  Everybody knows it’s there but nobody knows what to do with it, hoping that somebody comes up with a wiki-to-source roundtripping that helps anybody adopt a wiki.
  • X is a placeholder. As in XML.
  • Y.  A letter for which I could not come up with a word. I did try to match it to words such as Yes, Year, Yearn, and Yesterday but felt something was missing.  So, I am leaving Y alone. For You, the reader.
  • Z is for zen.  And the art of writing for motorcycle mechanics.

Click to enlarge.


  • Rachna Singh Ganguli for G = Google, F = feedback, Help is a privilege, J=Java and JPEG, R = respect; T=TWIN.
  • Anagha Chandratrey for K = knowledge, L = learning.
  • The Beatles, for “Listen! Do you want to know a secret”.
  • The people of The Sound of Music (1965) for “Let’s start…with A-B-C” and “When you know…most anything”.
  • The people of Yes, Minister (BBC) for “The relationship…termination”.

About the author:

Anindita Basu is an information developer at IBM, India.  She blogs at http://writing-technical.blogspot.com and can be reached at ab.techwriter@gmail.com.

About the illustration:

Used with permission from Anagha Chandratrey.


  1. This is great! Thanks, Anindita.

    Y is for “why” — the question that every technical writer should ask. Why is this content here? Why is it important to my audience? Why is my audience going to want to read it?

  2. Hallo Anindita

    What fun, and a great way to end the year and start another one!

    Our very next step should be to start a CMS called “Doh Re Mi”. 🙂


    • We should, we should 🙂 That’s the MOST self-explanatory and apt name for any CMS, IMHO. Sarah, you should take out a trademark on it.

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