Discovering Columbus

by Marisa Seitz on 2 December 2014

Today’s blog post about the 2015 Summit location, Columbus, OH, comes to us from Liz Herman.

When STC announced the location of the 2015 Technical Communication Summit, there were mixed reactions. Columbus, Ohio. “What? Where?” people asked. I get it. I only discovered Columbus, Ohio when I traveled to the city for a job interview with Battelle last year. I was hired for the job and, although I am located in Battelle’s Arlington, Virginia office, I have spent a good amount of time traveling to Battelle’s Columbus-based headquarters over the past year. I can tell you that I have been pleasantly surprised by Columbus. I asked some Battelle colleagues working there to share what they find interesting and unique about Columbus.

Columbus Night Skyline [click to continue…]


Publishing Perspectives: Editing

by Richard Hamilton on 26 November 2014

I knew I needed a break when I looked at a fortune cookie and the first thing I saw was a comma splice. Instead of reading the fortune, I immediately started looking for superstar word wielder Marcia Riefer Johnston to get a second opinion (we were both at Information Development World). Once my assessment was confirmed – she also said comma splice before making any other comment – I started thinking about editing and how to identify good editing.

Over the last month or so, we have been busy producing books in a new series. While the series has several editors, including Marcia, I have also done some editing.

Most of that editing consists of production editing, making minor wording changes to avoid bad line or page breaks in the print edition. We use an XML production process that does not let us do the kinds of detailed tweaking that a tool such as InDesign can do. We can’t squeeze in an extra line on just one page or adjust the letter spacing manually. Therefore, we sometimes need to reword after the copy edit is complete. [click to continue…]


Member Get a Member – Master Post

by Marisa Seitz on 25 November 2014

Due to technical difficulties with the main STC website, we are posting information about the Member-Get-a-Member program here on the blog. See below for information on the program, as well as links to our Recruiter Toolkit.

Member Get a Member

Recruit a member and be entered to win!

Every time you recruit a new member, you strengthen STC. A vital and growing STC membership means greater recognition of technical communicators, improved educational and networking opportunities for members, and the advancement of the profession. Why not reach out and share the same valuable opportunities with your colleagues? We know that you understand the value of your STC membership and now is the perfect time to reach out to your professional contacts and recruit them to join STC.

 What’s In It for You?

You are the greatest testimony to the benefits of being an STC member. By recruiting others, you will:

  • Expand your network of TC professionals
  • Strengthen STC—A vital and growing membership means greater recognition of the TC profession, improved educational and networking opportunities for members, and the advancement of technical communication worldwide
  • Help others succeed in their careers
  • Receive recognition for your recruitment efforts
  • Be entered into a drawing for prizes

The Prizes

Every Classic, New TC Professional, *Gold and Student member you recruit during this time, you will be entered to win one of the following prizes:

Recruit 1-2 members and be entered to win:

  • One of two live webinar registrations to the 2015 event of your choice
  • One of two $25 Amazon Gift Cards

Recruit 3-4 members and be entered to win a:

  • Kindle Fire HD 7 e-reader

Recruit 5 or more members and be entered to win a:


STC International Summit Awards 2015 Call for Judges

by Paula Robertson on 19 November 2014

Post image for STC International Summit Awards 2015 Call for Judges

Where can you get a professional development opportunity that is unlike any other and free of charge? From STC, of course! Volunteering your time and expertise to judge in the International Summit Awards gives you valuable experience that you just can’t get anywhere else. Past judges often comment on how rewarding the judging experience was for them, even as it stretched their abilities and introduced them to new ways of thinking about technical communication. But it’s not for everybody. If you think you have what it takes and are ready to take what it gives, I’m pleased to invite you to apply to be a judge.

As the Judge Manager for the 2015 STC International Summit Awards (ISA), I again anticipate what I consider a professional privilege—to work with STC colleagues around the globe, who volunteer their expertise as ISA judges and without whom the ISA competition would not be possible.

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Letter from the UK: Locali(s/z)ing for English

by Ellis Pratt on 17 November 2014

There was a lively discussion recently in LinkedIn’s Documentation and Technical Writing Management group over whether to use English, American English, or a hybrid that would satisfy everyone.

In making such a decision, it’s important to be aware of the differences between English and American English that:

  • Could affect the user’s performance
  • Might annoy a non-American audience
  • Aren’t worth worrying about

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World Usability DayWhen we are determined to do something (such as learn to swing dance, play the guitar, or earn a degree), we will overcome obstacles and challenges to achieve our goal. Persistent setbacks might discourage us, maybe slow us down, but we won’t give up because we are determined to succeed. We rely on instructors and mentors to teach us these skills, and our motivation helps us to press on. We know that the reward for our efforts is the ability to swing dance, play the guitar, or earn a degree, and we are proud of our accomplishment.

When we use a website (for example, to register for a car loan, book travel reservations, or purchase an item) that has confusing navigation and complex design, we do not exert the same determination to overcome obstacles and challenges because it is easier to bail out and try our luck with another website.  Although the vendor offers what we want, there are plenty of competitors that offer the same product at a better price. Suddenly, usability is critical to user satisfaction and profitability. [click to continue…]


Technical Communication JournalSTC’s Technical Communication Journal is looking for a new Editor-in-Chief. Read the Request for Proposals below, and be sure to submit by 15 January 2015.

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On the 24th October, The Queen opened a new gallery at The Science Museum, called “The Information Age”. The Information Age gallery takes visitors on a journey through the history of modern communications, from the telegraph to the smartphone. Exhibits on show include the broadcast equipment behind the BBC’s first radio programme in 1922, and Sir Tim Berners-Lee’s NeXT computer, which hosted the first website.

We were in South Kensington the following day and decided to have a look around the exhibition. You can see the photos here:

I spotted a number of user guides in the display windows. The earliest one was from 1673, describing Samuel Morland’s Adding Machine. [click to continue…]


October Intercom: Letter From the Editor

by Liz Pohland on 29 October 2014

The October Issue of Intercom is now available online. Check out this Note From the Editor, then head to to read the latest issue!

October Intercom 2014Have you ever worked on a technical communication project that needed help? The October issue of Intercom focuses on solving communications problems in the workplace and in “rescuing” troubled projects and teams. Heather Meeker Green and Rachel DiGiammarino from Accordence Inc., a consulting firm specializing in negotiation, communication, and personal effectiveness skills, have provided an article with their recommendations for driving a successful project—“‘Project Rescue:’ A Mindset for Collaboration.” They suggest three essential practices for creating collaborative environments in the workplace—leveraging interests, broadening perspectives, and de-escalating tensions. They claim this strategic approach ignites collaboration and results in effective rescues.

Tom Mochal of TenStep Inc. is an instructor and consultant on people and project management. His article for Intercom, “Minimize the Risk Associated with Project Rescue,” explains that project rescue is not an attempt to repair a sinking ship, but an attempt to raise a project up from underwater, and therefore is a radical and difficult task. He outlines several methods for minimizing the risk of troubled projects: 1) isolation (isolate the work into a separate recovery project with  agreement from the project sponsor or manager); 2) assessment (assess the troubled project to determine what went wrong and why); 3) alternatives (develop  alternatives, which may include canceling the project); and 4) implementation (activate, measure, and monitor the recovery plan). [click to continue…]


Plainly Speaking: A Task Is a Task Is a….Procedure?

by Karen Field Carroll on 27 October 2014

The other day, I got to thinking about tasks and procedures. We had just remodeled our kitchen, and I was flipping through the user manual for our new dishwasher, looking for a section that walked me through the process of washing dishes from start to finish. But the user manual in my hands offered no such trajectory.

Instead, I found the procedures I needed sprinkled under headings that used a mixture of imperative statements (“Start the dishwasher”) and feature names (“Child Lock”). I found the procedure for adjusting the top rack under the heading “Rack Accessories,” the procedure for unloading the dishwasher under the heading “Loading the Dishwasher,” and the procedure for loading the silverware basket in its own self-titled section.

In short, the manual dumped a bunch of procedures at my feet and expected me to organize them into chronological order.

That’s when I started thinking about tasks and procedures—specifically, the differences between them. When I use a product, I have a task in mind: making a phone call, tracking my expenses, and in this case, washing dishes. Many user guides, however, treat procedures like my dishwasher’s manual does: Not as different phases of one task, but as tasks unto themselves.

But is there a difference between a task and a procedure, I wondered? And if there is, does that difference matter to users? [click to continue…]