A directory of resources inthe field of technical communication.


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Minimalism favors short, task-oriented content over long, narrative material. Often based upon minimalist theory, the 'Plain language' movement seeks to present information in a way that makes it as easy as possible for people to understand, most often by removing unnecessary complexity and specialized terminology from documents.



AECMA Simplified English   (PDF)

ASD-STE100 Simplified Technical English (formerly AECMA Simplified English) is a specification for writing aircraft documentation. The principles can be applied to all industry sectors. ASD-STE100 provides a set of writing rules and a dictionary of words and their meanings. It has a limited number of words; a limited number of clearly defined meanings for each word; a limited number of parts of speech for each word; a set of rules for writing text. This article outlines the standard, and shows how it helps to prevent ambiguity in text.

Unwalla, Mike. ISTC (2004). Articles>Writing>Minimalism>Controlled Vocabulary


An Interview with John Carroll

Interview with John Carroll, best‑known among technical communicators as “The Father of Minimalism,” a title he earned as a result of his popular book, The Nurnberg Funnel.

Bleiel, Nicky. Society for Technical Communication (2015). Articles>User Centered Design>Human Computer Interaction>Minimalism


Answering the Critics of Plain Language

Plain language has to do with clear and effective communication -- nothing more or less. It does, though, signify a new attitude and a fundamental change from past practices.

Kimble, Joseph. Plain Language Network (2003). Articles>Writing>Legal>Minimalism


Arthur Levitt and the SEC: Promoting Plain English   (PDF)

Intercom's assistant editor profiles a recent recipient of STC's President's Award. The Securities and Exchange Commission was honored for requiring plain English in all disclosure statements filed with the SEC.

Nielan, Cate. Intercom (2000). Articles>TC>History>Minimalism


The Beauty of Simplicity

Marissa Mayer, who keeps Google's home page pure, understands that less is more. Other tech companies are starting to get it, too. Here's why making things simple is the new competitive advantage.

Tischler, Linda. Fast Company (2005). Articles>Usability>Web Design>Minimalism


Beyond Plain English

Plain English is good for increasing the quality of written documents. Unfortunately, it has limits in many technical situations. We need a special form of language, known as a controlled language, to overcome those limits. One particular controlled language is ASD Simplified Technical English.

Unwalla, Mike. TechScribe (2007). Articles>Writing>Minimalism>Controlled Vocabulary


But, Having Said That, ...

A persistent rule of thumb in the programming trade is the 80/20 rule: '80 percent of the useful work is performed by 20 percent of the code.' As with gas mileage, your performance statistics may vary, and given the mensurational vagaries of body parts such as thumbs (unless you take the French pouce as an exact nonmetric inch), you may prefer a 90/10 partition of labor. With some of the bloated code-generating meta-frameworks floating around, cynics have suggested a 99/1 rule—if you can locate that frantic 1 percent. Whatever the ratio, the concept has proved useful in performance tuning.

Kelly-Bootle, Stan. Queue (2006). Articles>Language>History>Minimalism


Calculating Documentation Cruft

It's easy to describe documentation cruft, and often easy to identify it once you see it, but it's hard to estimate how 'crufty' a document actually is. Furthermore, it's often hard to convince the creators of a document that 'their baby' isn't as beatiful as they believe it to be.

Ambler, Scott W. Dr. Dobb's (2007). Articles>Documentation>Assessment>Minimalism


Can You Design Your Way to a “No User Documentation” Approach?

For simple, commonly known actions in a closed environment, you probably can design your way to a “no user documentation” approach. Good design can also lead to less documentation. However, customers may expect to do more than that with a product and, in those situations, documentation can play a key role in meeting those expectations.

Pratt, Ellis. Cherryleaf (2009). Articles>Documentation>Usability>Minimalism


Clear as Mud: The Plot Thickens

A lot of the time, management-speak simply seems ridiculous. But campaigners for plain English say there is a more serious side to the issue.

BBC (1998). Articles>Writing>Rhetoric>Minimalism


Clear Writing: Ten Principles of Clear Statement

If you want to test the clearness of your writing, you may wish to consider using a 'fog index.' Fog indexes measure the complexity of writing samples, and often provide a means of calculating the reading or educational level required to understand a particular passage. Some fog indexes are available as computer software programs, or you may do the calculations yourself.

University of Missouri (1973). Articles>Writing>Rhetoric>Minimalism


Review: Clear, Brief and Bold: Will Strunk’s Legacy

A masterpiece of concision so tightly written that you almost don't need to read past the table of contents.

West, Mike. MBWest.com (2004). Articles>Reviews>Writing>Minimalism


Complexity and User Experience: Understanding Features in Terms of Complexity Instead of Functionality

The best products don’t focus on features, they focus on clarity. Problems should be fixed through simple solutions, something you don’t have to configure, maintain, control. The perfect solution needs to be so simple and transparent you forget it’s even there. However, elegantly minimal designs don’t happen by chance. They’re the result of difficult decisions. Whether in the ideation, designing, or the testing phases of projects, UX practitioners have a critical role in restraining the feature sets within our designs to reduce the complexity on projects.

Bolt, Jon. Boxes and Arrows (2012). Articles>User Experience>Usability>Minimalism


The Complexity of Simplicity

Though many business strategies and publications continue to trumpet the power of simplicity in the design of digital products, for lots of companies and product teams, simplicity doesn't come easy.

Wroblewski, Luke. UXmatters (2006). Design>Usability>Methods>Minimalism


Computer Gargon Baffles Users, Hinders Security

Computer jargon, a “tick box” culture and unimaginative advertising are discouraging Internet users from learning how to protect themselves online. Faced with such gobbledegook, many of the world’s nearly 2 billion Internet users conclude that security is for “experts“ and fail to take responsibility for the security of their own patch of cyberspace -- a potentially costly mistake.

Maclean, William. Globe and Mail, The (2010). Articles>TC>Security>Minimalism


Conciseness is Key to Good Technical Documentation

One of the most important and difficult parts of technical documentation concerns writing in a concise manner. Technical writing is different than writing fiction or magazine articles, where a mood may be set or--in some cases--where space must be filled. (People seldom buy thin books.)

Kurtus, Ron. School for Champions (2005). Articles>Document Design>Technical Writing>Minimalism


Cut, Cut, Cut your Content and Procedures

Sure. We’ve been reducing word count in procedures for some time. It’s time to do more, however. As noted in an earlier post, we have to think mobile. Think small screens and small devices. Screen real estate will be at a premium.

Norris, Julie. 2moro Docs (2009). Articles>Documentation>Technical Writing>Minimalism


Deadwood Phrases

Deadwood phrases are found in all types of writing. In technical writing they are to be avoided at all costs as documentation needs to be crisp, concise and accurate.

Klariti. Articles>Writing>Technical Writing>Minimalism


Design Critique: On Plain Language

An interview with Whitney Quesenbery about minimalism and plain language in user experience design.

Quesenbery, Whitney. Design Critique (2007). Articles>Interviews>Minimalism>Podcasts


Designing Minimalist Principles Into User Interfaces   (PDF)

Designing a user interface using minimalist principles for guided exploration can reduce the amount of paper and text necessary to document the system. Graphics in the interface can help the user grasp the concepts of the system, while dialog boxes, status information, and error messages can aid in recognition of success and recovery from errors. Online help can then be used as a backup for users if they get stuck. Reducing text and paper can reduce translation and printing costs, making this process very attractive.

Elser, Arthur G. STC Proceedings (1994). Articles>User Interface>Usability>Minimalism


Dogmas Are Meant to be Broken: An Interview with Eric Reiss

With training in everything from stage design to Egyptology to hypertext games to web projects, Reiss has had extensive practice in finding out what makes an experience work. Could these be the principles I've been waiting for? I tracked down Reiss in Vancouver to find out.

Danzico, Liz. Boxes and Arrows (2006). Articles>Information Design>Theory>Minimalism


Duct Tape Technical Writers

In reality, the user just wants a brief, clear explanation of a concept or task. The user will glance and skim — reading behaviors hardly worthy of the elitist grammarian who argues the finer points of “which” versus “that” in restrictive clauses.

Johnson, Tom H. I'd Rather Be Writing (2009). Articles>Document Design>Technical Writing>Minimalism


Editing to Help Students' Backs   (PDF)

Perhaps the worst way to condense a book is by using smaller or condensed type; you want to be especially careful that all fonts are legible. Neither should you save space by tossing out pictures or diagrams that clarify subjects. Some engineers cram paragraphs together, but paragraphs are valuable structural devices that can make subjects more clear. So the clue to successful condensation of text is not mechanical miniaturization but literary efficiency.

Bush, Donald W. Intercom (2003). Articles>Education>Writing>Minimalism


The Elements of Style for Designers

What if E.B. White had written 'Hanging Commas 99% Bad' instead of a gentle list of reminders for young writers? Wodtke outlines how White's list of 22 reminders for writing can be just what young designers need.

Wodtke, Christina. Boxes and Arrows (2006). Design>Web Design>Writing>Minimalism


Eliminate Phrases that Start With "in" from your Technical Documents

There are a number of filler phrases in English that start with “in.” You can improve the readability of your technical documents by eliminating such phrases and using much shorter equivalents.

Akinci, Ugur. Technical Communication Center (2010). Articles>Writing>Diction>Minimalism



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