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Tip 9 - I dislike "like"

In docs, we write tons of examples showing our readers how something works. These often follow a more general explanation or definition to illustrate how to use this feature or idea in their project. Just like remembering and forgetting assumes prior awareness, the word “like” often does a lot of heavy lifting!

I never want my reader to struggle to figure out what I mean by, “Do it like this…” You cannot assume that your reader knows which part of a code snippet is meaningful, especially when surrounding lines of code are shown for context. What specifically am I modelling? What’s the pattern are they supposed to notice and be able to repeat?

One PR edit I regularly make is removing “like” in favour of a more explicit comparison or explanation:

  • ✅ “To connect your CMS to your Astro project, set the value for token using your personal token available in your CMS dashboard:”

  • 😐 “Connect your Astro project to your CMS like so:“

Similarly, when I want to draw on my reader’s (presumed) prior knowledge to relate a new concept to something familiar, I don’t assume they’ll automatically perceive what I think is a similarity. “See this dog? It’s just like balloon, of course! Got it?” (You have to hold on to the leash tightly, or it will get away.)

Don’t make your readers guess what seems obvious to you, and they will “like” reading your docs a whole lot more!

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