Tagged: Writing & Editing

Complex and Complicated Information Systems: What Does a Technical Communicator Need to Know?

By Sarah E. Velasquez | Student Member and Tara S. Urban Intricate websites called complex and complicated information systems (CCISs) present a huge challenge to technical communicators. CCISs draw from multiple sources for their information, requiring the technical communicator who works with them to think about multiple types of content and delivery. Although we don't expect technical communicators to be Web designers or technical support, we see a need for technical communicators to have general knowledge of how CCISs function to be able to work with the content of these systems. In the rest of this article we will explain… Read the rest

The Technical Communicator's Machine

By Daniel Maddux | Member The machine In a previous article (“Mythbusting ‘Just Let the Engineer Write It!’” in the February 2011 Intercom), I explained how technical communicators use their training to achieve results that subject matter experts alone just can’t produce. An engineer may use his or her technical training to make sure a mechanical machine runs correctly. Technical communicators use their training with writing and organizing technical information to produce greater efficiency, more safety, and fewer mistakes. The “machine” we use turns complex data into productivity. So, then, the question remains, how does the technical communicator build and… Read the rest

Assessing the Overall Quality of a Document Based on Editorial Comments

By Kumar Dhanagopal | Senior Member Technical writers are often responsible for creating and maintaining multiple documents. In organizations where a formal editorial review is integral to the documentation process, technical writers who own multiple documents might need to address a huge volume of editorial input, often received late in the documentation cycle. What do all of those editorial comments, when taken as a whole, really mean in terms of the overall quality of the document? Lots of red ink might mean either that the document is in bad shape or that the editor loves to explain every comment, however… Read the rest

The Emotion Factor in User Manuals: How to Use Affective Assistance to Create More Loyal Customers

By Ellis Pratt Companies spend a lot of money finding appropriate emotional words to persuade prospective customers to buy their products or services. However, this word choice changes once you become a customer. When it comes to giving customers support and assistance, emotional words nearly always disappear; information suddenly becomes like Mr. Spock in Star Trek—cool and unemotional. With technology now a part of our daily lives, is it time to make our supporting product information—user guides and Help pages—reflect more closely our users’ feelings? In other words, can we turn the perception of a dusty manual that no one… Read the rest

Frustrations of He Said, She Said: How Experienced Technical Editors Can Understand and Work with Novice Writers

By Stephanie Chacharon As a relative newcomer to the professional workplace and the world of technical communication, I’ve experienced firsthand the difficulties of adapting to the role of technical writer. More recently, I’ve been dealing with less-experienced new hires adapting to their roles as technical writers. Because these perspectives are fresh, I feel uniquely qualified to offer the following advice on how to bring novice writers up to speed. Consider this a wish-list of sorts from me, the semi-amateur wordsmith, to you, the experienced editor. This article will address the frustrations that arise when dealing with inexperienced writers. Those frustrations… Read the rest

Government Proposal Writing 101

By Julia LaSalle, Christine Menna, and Stephanie Putt Does this sound familiar? You’re sitting at your desk happily working on some tidy software documentation, testing and typing, ready to build your online help, when a two-inch binder labeled “RFP” lands on your desk filled with a dozen post-it notes. Or maybe your boss clears his throat behind you. “We need you to work on this response,” he says, handing you a 100-page printout of solicitation documentation. Your stomach turns with the sick feeling that your next month and a half has just been turned upside down. These scenarios represent a… Read the rest

Four Generations of Editors: Overcoming Generational Differences in the Workplace

By HEIDI GLICK I have more than four years of technical editing experience, and during that time, I have collaborated with two other editors: one younger than me and one older than me. With four generations of employees in the workforce, I am not the only editor who is working in a multi-generational workplace. The four generations in the workplace include the “Traditional Generation,” the “Baby Boomer Generation,” “Generation X,” and “Generation Y.” While definitions of the generations vary, the demographics generally fall out as follows: the Traditional Generation includes editors currently aged 67 and older the Baby Boomer Generation… Read the rest

Medical Communication: A Branch of the Technical Communication Tree

By Lori Alexander and Lili Fox Vélez “What exactly do you do?” As a technical communicator, you are probably asked this question often. Your answer, apt to be long as you try to capture all your functions and knowledge, typically prompts a quick nod, an “Oh,” and a glazed-over look in the questioner’s eyes. We medical communicators understand. An answer of “I’m a medical communicator” is usually greeted with “Oh, you’re in medical billing” or “My aunt Louise is that—she’s a medical transcriptionist.” Having to explain ourselves is just one of many similarities between the careers of medical and technical… Read the rest