Technical communicators cannot be provoked

Have you ever received a review comment that totally ticked you off?

Perhaps a sarcastic comment with no practical suggestion for improving the content? Maybe even one that questioned your abilities as a writer and the value of your contribution to the product?

The dangerous thing about being a writer is that you're well equipped for unleashing scathing replies. If your buttons have been pushed, chances are your retaliation will bite deep and leave no room for misinterpretation. After all, you sling words for a living, right? Like the hands of Kwai Chang Caine, your words are deadly weapons.

Hold that thought...


Imagine you are knee deep in water and holding a musket over your head. It is a dark night, and the shadow of the bridge you're hiding under blocks even the faint moonlight.

You can't stop shaking from the cold.

Through the fog, you hear the muffled screams of injured soldiers as the doctors do their best to keep them breathing. Your stomach cramps from hunger, but you hold your post. At all costs, you'll hold your post, because the bridge under which you stand is the only passage for incoming supplies. It represents food, reinforcement, and a path for retreat, if necessary.

For days you've held that post, and now it is the only thought on which your starved spirit can focus.

Suddenly you notice a flicker out of the corner of your eye. A torch?

Then, you see the surreal image of a soldier reaching out and lighting fire to the bridge. As it burns, all hope of ever reaching home drains from your body, and the night erupts with the sounds of chaos and fighting.

On bridges, and burning them

As tempting as it may be to fire off a biting reply to an obnoxious comment, you'd be setting fire to your own bridge. Across that bridge are your allies. They have the information you need to win the war against bad documentation, and writing great user manuals requires more than an army of one.

Before you blow that bridge into oblivion, consider the cost. Sure, you might feel a bit better after blowing off some steam. But in the long run, you'll have lost a valuable relationship.

Instead, take a five minute break and do something enjoyable. Maybe when you come back, you'll see the offensive comments in a new light. You might even arrive at an understanding of why they were written.

Perhaps the reviewer was just having a bad day.

Keep the peace and everybody wins.

(Is this post too melodramatic? Sure. But it least you read it to the end.)

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