3 things technical writers can learn from screenwriters

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A few years back I took a screenwriting course through Georgetown University School of Continuing Studies.

It was a challenging course. The professor had a bit of an ego so I didn’t get as much out of it as I had hoped. Recently, I came back to some of the lessons I learned in the course:

  1. Write the picture. Screenwriting is all about telling the story in pictures. After taking this call and reading some screenwriting books, I am definitely rethinking how I approach article writing and technical marketing communications. Heck, for that matter, I may rethink even how I write procedures and product descriptions depending on the document. It’s been a wonderful creative exercise thus far and is pushing to make time for more creative writing into my schedule.
  2. Elicit emotions. Once upon a time, I was a college English Major who won campus wide awards for short stories and poetry. It feels like a lifetime ago after years writing about topics like network architecture, telephone number provisioning, and online collaboration. Technical marketing communications does need to elicit some emotion in order to elicit action from the reader.
  3. Get into the details of the story. It’s no secret that I rail against the so called technical writers who think they don’t need to be conversant in the subject they are writing about. Screenwriters spend time researching at the script treatment and scriptwriting stages so they can tell their story.

I’d like to return to screenwriting at some point and still find myself looking for another course to try.


Hi! My name is Will Kelly. I’m a technical writer and analyst based in the Washington, DC area. I’ve worked with clients like NetApp, Dell, and Neustar to develop technical, training, and thought leadership content. My articles have been published by IBM Mobile Business Insights, TechBeacon, CNET TechRepublic, Network World, Toolbox.com, ZDNet.com, and others. Follow me on Twitter:@willkelly.

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