This is the first in a series of posts on my journey as a technical writer to improve how I deliver ideas to readers’ minds and make them stick there.
You never know where you’ll discover a gold nugget. I found Chip and Dan Heath’s work by chance in a Google docs slide template called Making Presentations that Stick.
Intrigued, I googled “Chip and Dan Heath” and found their New York Times bestseller, Made to Stick, why some ideas survive and others die.
I was amazed to see that Amazon’s preview of Made to Stick generously gives away the “big secret” at the very heart of the book! It’s right there, free for anyone to read and use!
Most books keep their core ideas hidden away so you have to buy the book. Here, the authors flip that approach on its head. They give away the core idea for free, like open source software. They know these ideas are so simple and useful that they’ll find a much larger audience than if they were hidden. Then, that audience will turn right around, buy the book, and mention it to everyone they know. That’s what I’m doing right here.
The principles of the book boil down to an acronym, SUCCES:
I know, I know, you might be thinking – “ugh! Yet another business book with a catchy acronym!” But this book is SO much more than that. It’s a deeply researched and thoughtful work. Each principle is explained and demonstrated with a fascinating collection of stories – examples and anti-examples that give weight and depth to each principle. I’m amazed I didn’t hear of this book sooner. I wish I had read it years ago.
This book has had such a profound effect on me that I’m completely reworking the Explain Better talk I proposed to Write the Docs – Portland 2021 last month. I’ll hear back in a couple of weeks whether it was accepted. Even if it isn’t, I’ll hold an unconference on Explain Better.
In the following newsletters, I’ll discuss how I apply each of the SUCCES principles to technical writing.