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Creating a Custom Project for a Technical Writing Portfolio

I needed a technical writing portfolio.

I’m in the middle of a job search for a technical writing position and kept running into the same problem: I needed work for my technical writing portfolio.

Except …

The technical writing I did, which included lots of internal documentation and even putting a style guide together for internal use, was done largely under NDA. I wanted to respect the companies I worked for previously, but I still needed something great to prove I could do the work.

A Style Guide is Born

I’ve created style guides for internal use before, and it bothered me that all the style guide examples I found to guide us were mainly for public-facing needs, like website style guides or brand style guides.

Where was the internal documentation love?

So I decided my first project for my technical writing portfolio should be to put a template together for a style guide internal documentation teams could use for their projects.

What it Takes to Build a Style Guide

Putting a style guide together is a good mix of several skills most technical writers use frequently, which might also be helpful for the larger documentation project. This includes the following:

  • research to determine
    • who the audience is
    • how detailed the style guide needs to be
    • whether there are key priorities (like including inclusive language, accessibility, or other sections not always included in examples
  • working knowledge of the content this style guide will be used for, or content audit to find all relevant documents we’d need a style guide for
    • will it be a knowledge base?
    • documents like google docs that will be centrally located?
  • knowing the tool you’ll be working with
    • storing docs in Confluence will require some specific points relating to their features and how to work with the editor
    • using WordPress or another content management system means knowing any styling differences writers and editors will need to know
  • concise writing and editing
  • collaborating with other teams (and team members)
  • creating an MVP
  • organizing a project

Whew! That means a style guide involves much more know-how than most people realize.

Yep!

Which means it was perfect for my technical writing portfolio!

My Nerdy Heart Went into Overdrive

I got busy putting an outline together and started talking about the project with my friends. And I realized maybe other folks could use a project like this.

I originally created it, assuming I’d put it on my site, link it to my portfolio, and yay! I’d have a great project and be done.

But …

I realized having it available in multiple formats might help others who were in the process of putting together a style guide for internal documentation projects, too. I made it available for others to build off of with a Creative Commons license and am working on having it available in multiple formats.

I already have the MVP version on this site under my Technical Writing Portfolio and will have a downloadable Word version up soon. Next up will be to create a GitHub repo so everyone can build easily from it for their own projects.

Creating a Style Guide on My WordPress Site

I was going to put it up under its own hierarchy under the Pages on my WordPress site, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized I wanted to be able to put additional projects together too. (I even chatted with an amazing WordPress friend I know about this!)

So I created a custom post type (CPT) called Projects with hierarchical options (so I can nest projects inside their main project pages). Then I created a custom taxonomy called Project Type.

My Style Guide for Internal Documentation Template was born.

This is an image of an overhead view of a black desk with red headphones, a keyboard, and a red coffee cup along one side. On the other side of the image, "Technical Style Guide Template for an Internal Documnetation Project" is written and the Katrina Moody logo is underneath it.

I wasn’t satisfied with just using blocks for the layout, so I needed to create a reusable block and block patterns. In full honesty, the block pattern didn’t work quite right for the internal columns on my style guide pages, so I copied and pasted them. I’ll figure out why my pattern didn’t work right later.

But I created the CPT and custom taxonomy, along with a reusable block and a satisfying amount of content (over 3,300 words).

I’m pretty pleased with how the pages turned out.

Not Just for Internal Documentation

I know that’s what I said it is for, but this template is detailed, includes multiple notes that show where and how to customize it, and a separate questionnaire to help you make it completely what your team needs.

That means I hope it will work great for your internal documentation needs, and it will also work for all kinds of other projects.

And if you needed to do your own technical writing portfolio on the fly …

I would love to hear from you if you created your own technical writing portfolio. Did you do something similar? Another project? Do you need someone to review it for you? Happy to help my fellow technical writers! Drop me a line through my Contact Page.

Nothing left to do but comment!

Would you let me know if you use it and find it helpful?

(And if you know why my column block pattern didn’t work quite right, chime in on that if you think about it!)