How to not suffer the curse of knowledge

This week I read How to not suffer the curse of knowledge, a blog post by the Senior Programming Writer Bob Watson.

He takes his definition for the “curse of knowledge” from Wikipedia, stating it to be, “when an individual communicating with other individuals, assumes they have the background knowledge to understand.”

He says that in order to avoid these kinds of situations, one must know their audience. This can be done in a few steps.

The first step is to empathize with your audience. A technical writer should strive to understand the reader’s reason for reading their work.

The second step is to know what you assume the reader knows. You should anticipate the questions they might have. You should try to assume nothing.

The last step is to test your writing one someone with a similar background to your audience. Any feedback is valuable.

These steps won’t guarantee that you avoid the curse, but they will certainly help.

Leo Dold