I know Technical Writing is not supposed to have our personalities in it, but when I taught, I sought out educational videos/resources that had a bit of personality in them. Example: The Oatmeal's violent demonstrations of the semicolon, "the most feared punctuation on earth." I had an intro-to-academic-searching video that I chose regularly because it was from an Australian university, so the different accent was memorable.

So I'm trying to start a podcast, very short episodes (about 5 minutes — so it can be incorporated in a class), and when I taught in person classes, of course my personality came through. And part of why podcasts are cool (imho) is the hosts' personalities.

But in a live class, I could adjust. My default examples are often scifi or other random hobbies, but if they're not clicking, I can adjust. (Three Rhetorical Appeals (Logos/Ethos/Pathos) went from Spock/Kirk/Scotty to Hermione/Harry/Ron.)

I guess I'm wondering if I need to pick a theme for my sample sentences (listener: "here's a sentence about bees -- clearly demonstrating an odd thing about semicolons") or just go to my whims, may lose users if they're not into B5, baking, knitting ... but they may get bored with bees...?

Core question: How do I balance personality within sample sentences without being annoying?

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    Do you know your audience ahead of time? Or will the audience self-select? I might give different advice based on which one it is... Commented Feb 22, 2019 at 17:17
  • I'm not sure -- on one hand, podcasts are "discoverable," so there's that random aspect. But also if for a classroom, my thought is college (because that's what I taught), so things ideally appeal somewhat to both the instructor and the young-adult students. I have no idea how to target anything towards children. Commented Feb 22, 2019 at 17:19
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    I slipped some Big Bang Theory references into the examples in our product software recently. Just saying... tech writing doesn't have to be all generic; you just have to be careful not to depend on people having specific genre knowledge in order to understand. Commented Feb 22, 2019 at 19:38
  • And yet I am not at all fond of that show. My rough drafts/examples frequently have Buffy the Vampire Slayer or original Muppet Show references, until I can formalize the language. Commented Feb 22, 2019 at 19:46

1 Answer 1


If your audience is self-selecting, I would pick a theme you like a lot, and build your podcast around it. Sure, you'll lose some audience, but people who like your theme will gravitate to you. The reason for this advice is that there's a lot of podcasts out there. Having a theme will help you stand out from the pack.

On the other hand if you have a set audience --for instance, if your podcast is being used for a specific class --I'd say you would want to try to find out what you can about your audience, and make sure you're communicating in a way they can relate to.

  • It's not for a specific class, just the TYPE of thing that classes MAY use. Commented Feb 22, 2019 at 20:01
  • If I do a theme for this series, I'm currently thinking BEES. 1) I adore bumbles! 2) I used to keep bees (top bar hive) 3) there's something about the word that's just funny to me. Lots of surreal potential. Commented Feb 22, 2019 at 20:06

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