Write the Docs Newsletter – May 2021

Hello, Write the Docs people! There’s tons to cover this month, so I’ll get straight to it.

We’ve just wrapped up our second virtual Portland conference - thanks so much of you to all who attended for making it special! If you missed it (or just want to experience it all over again), all the talks are now live on YouTube.

There’s plenty more conference goodness still to come in 2021, with the Prague virtual conference coming on 3rd-5th October, and we’ve just announced that the Australia and India virtual conference will be 2nd-3rd December. And the Call for Proposals for Prague is open now. Really looking forward to hearing your ideas - big or small, inspiring or entertaining.

Finally, we’re proud to announce our 2021 donation matching campaign. We want our work to make a difference globally, and we want to encourage Write the Docs members to engage with their local organizations. So please check out the matching campaign blog post, and if you’d like to donate to a relevant charity, get in touch.

Podcasts for documentarians

If you’re looking for podcasts about technical writing, content strategy, knowledge management, and related topics, here’s a list courtesy of the WTD community (with links for podcasts with dedicated websites). The number and variety of podcasts for documentarians is a delight!

Folks noted one gap: podcasts from non-English-speaking countries or in languages other than English. We have a couple in this list, but if you know of others, please share them in the WTD Slack!

General tech writing and interviews with documentarians:

Content strategy and copywriting:


Tech writing and technology:

Tech writing training topics:

UX writing:

The grammar of singular they

Using “they” in the singular has a long history. But the grammar is not always obvious - as a recent Slack question showed. What is the appropriate reflexive form of “they” - for example, the equivalent to “he himself is” or “she herself is”?

There was some disagreement on whether it should be “themselves” or “themself”, and so, correspondingly, what the verb form should be also – “they themselves are”? or “they themself is”? Interestingly, nobody suggested “they themself are”, even though the most common verb form for singular they without the reflexive pronous is “are”. But one person pointed out that “the person themselves is …” is not uncommon. So many possibilities! So little agreement!

Some, understandably, suggested omitting the reflexive form altogether. This can be appropriate in technical writing, if you can find a way to rephrase - for example, by writing less formally to provide the emphasis that the reflexive pronoun can sometimes carry.

Everyone did seem to agree that the singular they (and the gender-neutral language it represents) is here to stay - and that this is a good thing. Some folks admitted to struggling when people expressed preference for “it” as a personal pronoun – but again, there was general agreement that it’s important to make the effort. Language changes! (Or, as one contributor put it, “be the change you want to see in language!”)

Making accessibility more accessible

Accessibility is an evergreen topic in the WTD community. The latest batch of shared resources inspired a group of folks to update the list we publish, and to revise the style guide as well in the process.

So here are the new pages! Thank you to everybody who contributed discussion and links in the Slack, as well as to the brilliant collaborators who put it all together during the conference Writing Day (so your newsletter people didn’t have to do the work ;)):

What we’re reading and watching

The #bipoc group’s been discussing the following materials on diversity, inclusion, and equity. Want to join the conversation? Please join us in the #bipoc Slack channel!

For a short read, check out this article in Good Housekeeping about why some Asians are having a hard time speaking out about the ongoing Anti-Asian hate crimes and how you can show support.

If you have a little more time, read this article on Forbes for some ways you can be a BIPOC ally in the work place.

And if you can invest more than an hour, take the time to watch this webinar from Virginia Tech about Black Technical and Professional Communication. It explores topics on Black User Experience Design, Black Entrepreneurship, Black Rhetorics of Heath Communications, Black Activists as Technical Communicators, and more.

From our sponsor

This month’s newsletter is sponsored by Paligo:

Paligo is an all-in-one cloud-based CCMS platform. Authoring, versioning, branching, release workflows, publishing, translation management, and more - all updated continuously in the cloud. No more worrying about locally installed software and deployment!

Read the case study: https://bit.ly/2UV2uCQ


Interested in sponsoring the newsletter? Take a look at our sponsorship prospectus.

Virtual events coming up