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Podcast: 10 myths about API documentation

by Tom Johnson on Sep 29, 2019 •
categories: api-doc podcaststechnical-writing

In this podcast, I debunk 10 myths about API documentation. For example, some myths are that only engineers can write API docs, or that you have to write API docs by deciphering an engineer's source code. In this podcast, I go through these myths one by one with discussion and analysis.

10 myths about API documentation

Here are the myths I address in the podcast.

  1. You must read source code to write docs.
  2. You’ll need to extrapolate sample code from one language to create code samples in another.
  3. You must be a former engineer to be competitive in the API doc space.
  4. Technical writers usually create the reference material (e.g., OpenAPI spec, Javadoc).
  5. Almost all job interviewers care about, when it comes to API doc jobs, is technical know-how.
  6. Developers can and will write if you implement a docs-as-code process.
  7. Because their role aligns with the audience, with API docs, developers are most suited to be the ones writing for other developers.
  8. API documentation and developer documentation are synonymous.
  9. Docs that look good are good.
  10. People will respect you more if the word “writer” isn’t in your job title.

In the podcast, I mentioned this NY Times article: In the Salary Race, Engineers Sprint but English Majors Endure.

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Here’s a short survey to see if you think these myths are generally true or false. (It would be best if you listened to the podcast first.) You can view the ongoing results here.

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About Tom Johnson

Tom Johnson

I'm a technical writer / API doc specialist based in the Seattle area. In this blog, I write about topics related to technical writing and communication — such as software documentation, API documentation, visual communication, information architecture, writing techniques, plain language, tech comm careers, and more. Check out simplifying complexity and API documentation for some deep dives into these topics. If you're a technical writer and want to keep on top of the latest trends in the field, be sure to subscribe to email updates. You can also learn more about me or contact me.