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Learn API Technical Writing: JSON and XML for Writers

API Documentation1: Teaches technical writers how to document structured data. No programming experience required.
4.7 (329 ratings)
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1,939 students enrolled
Last updated 1/2017
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  • 1 hour on-demand video
  • 4 Articles
  • 5 Supplemental Resources
  • Full lifetime access
  • Access on mobile and TV
  • Certificate of Completion
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This is the first in a series of courses for technical writers who want to learn how to write API documentation. This course teaches how to document structured data, focusing on the two most popular structured data formats: JSON and XML. If you are new to API documentation, this is a great place to start. No programming experience is required, but technical writers with programming experience who want to know more about structured data will still find it useful.

What are APIs?

APIs (Application Program Interfaces) define how software systems talk to each other, and API documentation is a rapidly growing field. There is a strong need for writers who can understand APIs and explain them so that software developers can understand how to use them. API writers get to be in on the cutting edge of technology in high-paying positions.

What is in This Course?

By the end of the course, you will understand what APIs are, why they are important, and how to read and document structured data. In this course you'll find:

  • Eight videos that:
    • Provide background information on APIs and structured data
    • Break down sample JSON and XML files to show you how they work
    • Show real-time, narrated writing of JSON and XML documentation
  • Four hands-on exercises to lead you through building and documenting JSON and XML files
  • Two text-based lectures about useful software tools
  • Five short quizzes to keep you on your toes
  • PowerPoint presentations as a resource for every video lecture

The course takes approximately 2.5 hours to complete, depending on how fast you are with the exercises.

Who is the target audience?
  • Technical writers with experience writing end-user documentation and how want to learn how to write API documentation. No prior programming or structured data experience is required.
  • Technical writers with programming experience who want details on best practices for documenting structured data.
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What Will I Learn?
Read and understand structured data in JSON and XML formats.
Write documentation for JSON and XML files, for API documentation or other types of documentation.
Understand how to edit JSON and XML for tools that generate documentation.
View Curriculum
  • A text editor (such as Notepad or TextEdit) and a Word Processor (such as MS Word, Apple Pages, or Google docs)
Curriculum For This Course
Expand All 16 Lectures Collapse All 16 Lectures 01:22:07
3 Lectures 12:00


  • Teacher's background and credentials
  • What are APIs?
  • Why is API documentation important?
  • JSON, XML, and how they compare
  • Class overview
Preview 06:29


  • Data types
  • Boolean values
  • Structured data
Preview 04:44

Please answer the following questions about data types.

Identify Types of Data
3 questions

For this class, you'll be creating JSON and XML files. This lecture recommends some tools you can use.

Tools for Writing JSON and XML
5 Lectures 25:15


  • The history of JSON
  • Basic data types
  • Arrays
  • Objects
  • Nesting
  • Indentation

On completion, students will be able to read and understand JSON files.

Note that this for this (and all video lectures), the PowerPoint presentation is included as a resource.

What is JSON and How Does It Work?

This lecture is actually a hands-on exercise. Create a JSON file according to the given specifications.

Create a JSON File Exercise
2 pages

Please answer the following questions about JSON.

4 questions


  • How JSON is used for both requests and responses
  • Documenting a JSON element
  • Documenting acceptable values
  • Documenting element nesting
Documenting JSON

This lecture is an exercise where you will document three JSON files.

JSON Documentation Exercise
3 pages

Answer these questions about JSON documentation:

JSON Documentation
3 questions

I suggested using indentation in tables to indicate nesting. More recently, I have seen a different approach using sample JSON. This short article describes this approach.

An Alternative to Indenting
4 Lectures 19:48


  • What is XML?
  • Tags and content
  • Attributes
  • Namespaces and Comments
  • Indentation
  • Schemas

On completion, students will be able to read and understand XML files.

What is XML and How Does It Work?

This lecture is an exercise where you will create three XML files according to specifications.

Create XML Exercise
3 pages

Please answer the following questions about XML.

XML Quiz
2 questions


  • Differences between XML documentation and JSON documentation
  • Documenting attributes
  • Using multiple tables

On completion, students will know the basics of how to document XML.

Documenting XML

This lecture is an exercise where you will document three XML files.

XML Documentation Exercise
3 pages

Answer the following questions about XML documentation:

XML Documentation
3 questions
Final Words
4 Lectures 13:34

Covers what kinds of tools are available for documenting JSON and XML.

Tools for Writing Structured Data Documentation


  • Why use structured data for documentation
  • Using JSON to describe APIs
  • Using XML to describe XML (XSD)
  • Disadvantages to this approach
Using Structured Data for Documentation


  • Review of everything you've learned in this course
  • What is the next step for learning to document APIs
Review and Next Steps

Learn how to document REST APIs.

Bonus Lecture: Offer for Next Course in the Series
About the Instructor
4.6 Average rating
702 Reviews
2,447 Students
4 Courses
President, SDK Bridge

Peter founded SDK Bridge to bring together his love of technology and writing. After 10 years as a software developer, he learned the skill of API writing at Microsoft. Since then, he has worked as an API writer to describe APIs for eCommerce, automobile traffic prediction, electric utilities, mobile phones, and tractors, just to name a few. In addition to API and SDK documentation, he creates video tutorials for software developer audiences. Peter received his BA in Physics from the University of Chicago and his PhD in Applied Physics from Stanford University.

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