Eye for Editing: Do Not Edit …

by Paula Robertson on 26 August 2014

Just because you can. Please, do not mark something for an author to change just to prove your superior knowledge of seldom-used symbols.

You think I’m kidding? Good, because you wouldn’t do something like this, would you? In the throes of final review to meet a draft document deadline, please don’t waste the author’s time—the author who is already stressed and has worked many overtime hours to meet the deadline—by demanding revisions that no one but you will notice. Resist the urge to point out every tiny flaw that presents itself.

Because it’s just not important.

If you recall the work-related scenario that I described in my last post (Eye for Editing: Caught Between Two Edits), this scenario takes editing comments to a new extreme. In a situation last week, among many other things the team lead mentioned during two days of group review sessions, she pointed out that I had used quotation marks instead of inch symbols when I brought content into the master document. I was expected to change them on the spot while she and my colleague watched. Excuse me? How is this minutia the least bit relevant at this point? It’s as if someone was trying to prove something.

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Presentations can be an effective way to deliver complex information or tell a persuasive story. For example, you may find yourself in the position of convincing an executive to purchase an expensive content management system or reminding your boss how many different ways you add value to the company during your annual review. Telling your audience a convincing story is difficult enough without the handicap of boring, static, text-filled slides, and audiences have long suffered through endless PowerPoint slide decks. Once you discover Prezi’s ability to add meaning through proximity and visualize relationships through movement, you may never deliver another PowerPoint. Get started with the live Web seminar Wowing Your Audience with Prezi, presented by Michael Opsteegh on Tuesday, 26 August, from 1:00-2:00 PM EDT (GMT-4).

Attendees will benefit from this webinar in several practical ways:

  • Understand the difference between Prezi and other presentation platforms
  • Know how to sign up for the Prezi account that suits their needs
  • Understand the principles for planning a successful Prezi
  • Understand how to source appropriate graphics
  • Know how to place text and graphics on the Prezi canvas
  • Understand how to use proximity and movement effectively

This presentation will show Prezi in action.

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A few years ago I attended an international reception at a Summit. I met the STC person running it and I complimented her on creating a program that welcomed our visitors from other countries. I mentioned to her how we had created the first international reception when I was Assistant to the President for Member Programs in 1987; she said “No, there were no international receptions before this one.” She even suggested that she had created the concept.

The point is that we are constantly reinventing the wheel in STC. We used to talk a lot about “corporate memory” in STC. During the eighties and nineties former president Jeff Hibbard was usually identified as the expert in STC corporate memory. Nevertheless, every so often someone tells me of a new idea that I know is not new, but had been created many years ago.

The history of the International Members Reception began in the mid-1980s. At that time STC was getting a tremendous year-to-year increase in STC members from all over the world attending our annual conferences. For the 1986-87 year I was appointed Assistant to the President for Member Programs. Since we didn’t have any set program for recognizing international members at our annual conferences, I assigned our International Member Programs committee, headed by Lorraine Oatley Hughes, to come up with a plan to welcome our members from abroad. Ultimately, the decision was made to have an International Members Reception at the 1987 STC Conference.

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Community leaders will be glad to hear that the STC Community Affairs Committee (CAC) has got their back in 2014-2015. If you need help, feel stuck, or just want ideas, look to the CAC as your connection to STC resources, Board of Directors, and staff.

This is the third of three CAC posts (see post one and post two here). In this post, we will meet our Student/Young Professional Outreach Team Lead, Michael Opsteegh, our Student/Young Professional Outreach Team Liaison, Samantha Gale, our Community Technical Solutions Lead, Rhyne Armstrong, and our Communications Lead, Viqui Dill.

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Michael Opsteegh

Student/Young Professional Outreach

Michael Opsteegh is the chair of the Student/Young Professional Outreach Task Force. The Task force is committed to brainstorming and evaluating  STC’s support and outreach to students and young professionals and ensuring these critical segments of STC members are well served.

Contact Michael if you have questions about starting or maintaining a student chapter or if you have suggestions about engaging students and young professionals. Read more about Michael at https://www.linkedin.com/in/mopsteegh.

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Lessons from Linda: Language is Fun

by Linda Oestreich on 20 August 2014

“Objectivity cannot be equated with mental blankness; rather, objectivity resides in recognizing your preferences and then subjecting them to especially harsh scrutiny—and also in a willingness to revise or abandon your theories when the tests fail (as they usually do).”
          —Stephen Jay Gould

Years ago, I had the fortune to meet someone I believe to be a 20th Century Renaissance Man (if there could be such a mixture): Stephen Jay Gould. In 2000, Dr. Gould received an STC Honorary Fellowship. (I led the committee who championed him to the STC Board of Directors.) A gentleman of grace and charm, he joined our conference in Orlando at Disney World where I had the honor of meeting him, dining with him, and introducing him to our members. It was one of the great experiences of my life. To this day, I treasure those few hours as ones that helped me recognize the beauty and benefits of good technical communication.

In addition to being a forward-thinking brilliant scientist, evolutionary theorist, and paleontologist, Dr. Gould was a renowned nature and science essayist. Unfortunately, he died in 2002 of cancer at the young age of 60. But in his 60 years, he made a huge impact on science and writing both in popular culture and in scientific circles. He not only appeared in an episode of The Simpsons, but he also was named as one of America’s “living legends” by the U.S. Congress. In addition to his scientific papers, Dr. Gould wrote for Scientific American, The Atlantic Monthly, New Scientist, and Natural History magazine; most of his books were compilations of those articles.

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We all have ideas about how something works; better yet, we all have ideas about something should work. These ideas are based on our previous experiences. When products work the way we think they should work, we can successfully use them. When products do not work how the way we think they should work, we get frustrated because we cannot successfully use them. Get tips on navigating this with the live Web seminar Designing Documentation with Users in Mind, presented by David Dick on Thursday, 21 August, from 4:00-5:00 PM EDT (GMT-4).

In this webinar, David Dick discusses how we can we design documentation that addresses gaps between what the user knows about the product, what they need to learn about the product to understand how to use it successfully, and how we can design documentation with the users in mind.

This webinar is based on the article “How to Design Documentation with Users in Mind” featured in the July/August 2014 issue of Intercom.

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Technical writing is not just about writing user guides. Web pages, wikis, and mobile applications are replacing manuals and online help. The basic principles of print and Web writing may be the same, but you need to engage your readers as you create content that is easy to understand, well organized, and speakes directly to your audience. Learn how with the live Web seminar Beyond the Manual: Writing for the Web, presented by Ellen Buttolph on Wednesday, 20 August, from 1:00-2:00 PM EDT (GMT-4).

In this webinar you will learn the basic principles of plain language and writing for the Web, including:

  • Understanding what your audience needs
  • Writing as conversation
  • Defining your voice
  • Writing clearly and concisely
  • Using space effectively

Whether you’re looking to optimize your current Web content or creating your first wiki, learn how you can transition your skills to writing for the Web.

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STC welcomes Molly Jin to the fold as the Society’s new director of meetings and education. Molly will head STC’s impressive array of online education as well as the Technical Communication Summit.

“My goal for the education and meetings department is to build upon the foundation the Society has set by developing and offering innovative learning opportunities,” said Molly, “and to establish STC as the premiere continuing education destination for the profession.”

Molly has a background in association management working in industries ranging from commercial audiovisual to death care and memorialization. She is passionate about serving the members of her association and has lots of experience developing a variety of educational offerings across many platforms.

“I am really excited to have Molly come on board as our new director of education and meetings,” said STC CEO Chris Lyons. “She has great experience in developing and delivering educational programs in the nonprofit world. I’ve been impressed already with her willingness to jump in and drive our education events as well as contribute good ideas to our conference planning and overall marketing efforts. It’s a big job to take on but I am confident we have the right person in Molly.”

Outside of work, Molly lives in historic Leesburg, VA, with her husband, step-daughter, and new puppy, Huckleberry Jin. When not scheduling sleepovers, puppy play dates, and swimming lessons, you can probably find her exploring the beautiful Virginia countryside she calls home, visiting a museum, or golfing with her husband. She also gets a little nuts during March Madness and says, “Rock Chalk, Jayhawk!”

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Community leaders will be glad to hear that the STC Community Affairs Committee (CAC) has got their back in 2014-2015. If you need help, feel stuck, or just want ideas, look to the CAC as your connection to STC resources, Board of Directors, and staff.

This is the second of three CAC posts (see the first one here). In this post, we will meet our Leadership Resources leads, Carolyn Klinger and Lori Meyer, and our CAC SIG Lead, Jamye Sagan.

Carolyn Klinger

Carolyn Klinger

Leadership Resources (Web content)

Carolyn Klinger manages the Leadership Resource materials on STC.org.

If you have any suggestions for making the this page more of a resource to you as a leader, contact Carolyn.

Read more about Carolyn at http://wdcb.stcwdc.org/about-us/chapter-bios/klinger-bio/.
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A friend purchased a smartphone to replace her aging cell phone. She used the smartphone for one thing—to make phone calls. The other features and functions of her smartphone are unknown to her because she does not know they exist and does not know how to use them. She is easily confused by new technology because she won’t read the user guide. She relies on assumptions of how things should work and is frustrated when her assumptions prove incorrect. Eventually she “figures it out” on her own and rejoices with her new-found knowledge.

Cognitive psychology refers to the way we develop an understanding of how something works as a “mental model.” We develop mental models by observing what happens with a process and drawing conclusions about how the process works. Interestingly, we can possess an incorrect mental model due mostly to a lack of training.

You might be wondering why, as a technical writer, you need to be aware of mental models. I asked the same question myself. Understanding users’ mental models are essential to the development of instructions, tutorials, demos, and other forms of user assistance. If you don’t help users to develop accurate mental models of how a product is designed (e.g., a software program, website), you leave users to their own devices to develop their own mental models. If their mental models are not correct, users might have problems using the product.

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