Technical Writing

Slashed Prices

We had a meeting yesterday and decided to slash some of our prices in half permanently. We decided that we need to focus on retaining clients and getting those clients to come back. Therefore, we lowered our prices to tantalize a few of you into trying our services.

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5 Ways to Create Motivation Using eLearning Scenarios by Brother Sean

5 Ways to Create Motivation Using eLearning Scenarios

I read this and I couldn’t help but think of a game series that I enjoy playing created by Naughty Dog called Jak and Daxter. The first game is really simple and easy but as you move through each level the game gets more advanced. The next game builds on the fundamentals you used in the first.  I still haven’t been able to beat Jak and Daxter: The Last Frontier but heights scare me even in a game.

My point is, nobody would expect a child to do algebra without learning basic math skills. Why should any other skill be any different. Yes, it may be slower but the employee, student, or customer will be less frustrated and more productive. A really quick side note: make sure to update your scenarios to suite your user needs.

Editing isn’t important….right? by Melinda Anderson

I have just spent three hours helping my husband to study for a General Painting Contractors License to cover certain states in the midwest. The experience has been highly entertaining and informative. In fact, it has been so entertaining that I have chosen to share a few of the questions from the practice tests he has been studying. Let’s start with something very basic such as extra words.

“What should aluminum be wiped with what after weathering?”

Now, you might have quickly read this question and your eyes may have stumbled but you got the gist of the question. You might have even read it agin just to make sure. However, let’s pretend for five minutes that you have a reading disability. You might read this question like this:

“What should aluminum be wiped with what? After weathering.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I have made several errors just like this one. Writing is not perfect, however, the author of this question could have taken at least 5 seconds to read the question thereby discovering the extra word.

Most of the questions are the standard multiple choice with one or two answers. This next example is confusing because the sentence has blank spaces for two answers but only one is needed.

“A HEPA sanding abatement method removes _____________ and _________________ coating.”

( ) lead based
( ) epoxy based
( ) primer based
( ) none of the above”

I read this and I automatically assumed that two answers are needed because there are two blank spaces. I quickly scanned my choices looking for one with two answers. I expected something like ( ) lead and epoxy based or ( ) both 1 and 2.  As you can see, there is not a selection with two answers. I reread the question and looked at the answers again. I quickly realized that someone had made a mistake and no one had caught it.

I don’t want this post to be longer than necessary so let me sum up the rest of the errors really quick, missing articles, misused prepositions, conflicting information, and misused punctuation. These are just the common errors that I, a lowly technical writer, discovered in three hours while helping my husband study.

These materials are supposed to be designed to help a student learn. However, errors like these only confuse a student and make the learning process even more difficult.

I guess whoever wrote these materials did not consider the student’s need. After all, why bother editing if you don’t care about your audience.

By Melinda Anderson

Formatting: The Other Critique by Neil Dabb

My business partner, Neil Dabb has some excellent advice for those of us who self-publish in his article Formatting: The Other Critique. This advice can also be applied to the Professional and Technical Communication field; especially, when your business or company does not have a writer or editor on staff.

Other advice, check your photographs. For instance, if your work instructions state that safety guards have to be used on a machine that has a possibility of physical injury to employees, the picture or image should show the safety guard being used.

Images should also correlate to the step. In most cases, if you have five steps there should be five pictures. Not five steps on page 1 and an image on page 3 that may or may not show the employee what they are supposed to be doing.

If your employee manual states that employees should not wear jewelry when operating equipment, then the image should reflect that standard. In other words, your documentation should correlate on every level to your company, your training, your branding, and your marketing.

This will create a professional and educated work force that is positive about their job which leads to a better quality of product for your business.

By Melinda Anderson

What is Process Documentation?

Bill Hades made notes on his clipboard. Unlike most clipboards, this one had a digital display in the upper right corner and its electronic clock was ticking off decimal hours. The crew he watched was bolting precision machined segmented handling rings onto the skirt of a Space Shuttle Booster Motor.

My father wrote this sketch when he was working at a rocket factory in the industrial engineering department. Recently my partner described a similar scene while documenting a process for her current assignment. Process documentation is not new, but the names used to describe it obviously have changed. As technical writers, process documentation is one of many facets of the field that successful writers should be familiar with.

Process documentation is more than just timing each step of the process. It includes describing each step as well as determining differences between how individual operators, also know as Subject Matter Experts (SME), perform the process. It also includes determining the most efficient way to perform the process and how to explain that process to others. In some cases, this can lead to standardizing a process to control quality of a product.

Neil Dabb

The Changing Face of Technical Writing:

At a recent job fair, one of the recruiters said something to the effect, “They don’t have those any more do they?”  Many of the vendors at the fair were looking for engineers and other technical professionals, but I did find several firms looking for technical writers, many on a contract basis.

The question is, Is the field of technical writing going away?  The answer is no, unless, engineers and other technical professionals learn to use language that clients and customers can understand and are willing to write the marketing and training materials that go with the procedures and products they produce.  However, the technical writing field is changing.

I was recently reading a blog that was discussing changing the title of Technical Writing to something more current.  The problem is, while the field of technical writing is expanding, attempts to change the title would only give upper management an excuse to lower the  wages and professionalism of our field; not too mention create confusion among the field itself and emplyers.  Currently, many firms are eliminating their full time technical writers and hiring contract technical writers or temporary technical writers as the need for documentation arises.

These new developments make work in the field of Technical Writing a different creature.  There are challenges, but there are also opportunities to expand the field as well.  The face of Technical Writing is changing.

DragonTech Writing, championing the cause for technical writers.

By Neil Dabb