Communication

Users’ Advocate: Blame the Author If Communication Fails? by Marc Baker

Well, it’s Monday and rather than writing something ourselves we came across this article on the Techwhirl site.

Users’ Advocate: Blame the Author If Communication Fails? by Marc Baker

What do you think?

A Positive Attitude Can Open Doors

Every thought is a seed. If you plant crab apples, don’t count on harvesting Golden Delicious. ~Bill Meyer

What is your attitude when you step outside your door? Are you able to leave your personal problems at home? Can you separate your personal life from your work life? 

I have had social anxiety for over twenty years. What this means is I dislike crowds, I dislike going to new places, and I have a hard time working with people. I do have anxiety attacks, my heart will race, my blood will pound, and I just know everyone is judging me negatively.  However, the field I have chosen to go into requires constant contact with all of the above.

I chose to go to college and get a degree in English, emphasis in Professional and Technical Communication. I chose a professional field that puts me in contact with people on a daily basis. I chose to start and run two business that also puts me in contact with people on a daily basis. What in the world was I thinking?

Actually, I wasn’t thinking. I was reacting to an article in the Utah State University paper, The Utah Statesman, that ran an article on how smiling can affect not only your self esteem but other people. It stated that even if you are having the worst day in your life you should still plant a smile on your face because some one else might need a friendly smile more then you do.

My reaction was well I’ll give it a try. I started to smile around the campus and before you know it people were responding. The shuttle drivers would ask how my day was, other students would walk with me and we would talk, professors even seemed more willing to help me out with my assignments. My self esteem sky rocketed and I realized that my attitude was changing and I become more positive and confident.

My point is this, your attitude determines how you will feel at the end of the day. Your attitude will make you a better human being, a better student, or a better employee.  Your attitude will either draw people toward you or push them away from you. It is up to you to chose the type of person you want to be.

By Melinda Anderson

Three Tips to Fight the Blank Page Effect

PHD Comics: Writing

You have a report to write for work, an essay for school, or the perfect novel that will make you rich and famous. You know your audience, you know your topic, you have done your research. You think this is going to be the easiest thing I have ever written. You sit down at your desk, fire up the computer, and open your preferred program for writing. There it is the blank page.

You stare at it, five minutes go by. You begin to type, shake your head, and delete the thought that had  just formed. You reread your notes or browse through your research. You look at your computer but the blank page is still there. Another five minutes go by. You decide to get a drink, go for walk, do some more research but the blank page is still there when you get back.

How do you fight the blank page effect? Do you really want the secrets? Do you really want to know? Here are my three tips:

First, just type or write something that is relevant to your topic. Don’t delete it just keep going until you find your inner muse that will guide you through the document. Believe me once you start the words will flow.

Second, have a co-worker, friend, or professor look it over once it is finished to get some advice. There is a rhythm to words that if done correctly brings excitement and curiosity to the dullest of topics. However, if the sentence structure or punctuation is in correct, the reader is jolted out of the topic and quickly loses interest. Having someone read your document and just have them mark the places that jolt their eyes will help you correct your document and make you a better writer.

Third, be your self. If you are a class clown don’t try to come across as an academic. If you are an academic don’t try to come across as a class clown. Each of us has our own life experiences, therefore, each of us have our own voices when we write. This is probably the best piece of advice I can give you, however, it is one of most difficult to achieve. Writing is a very personal experience, it lets people see a side of you that normally does not show. For me, its like, I forgot to put a bra on before going to work. I am still covered but I feel like everyone is staring and judging me. However, if you can find and use your inner voice, you will be one hell of a good writer.

By Melinda Anderson

Cake Left Out In Break Room With No Instructions

Here is an example of bad technical writing, Cake Left Out in Break Room With No Instructions. Yes, we realize it is a piece of satire written by the Onion.

However, think about it. What if a cake had appeared in the break room with nothing written on it, no one knowing why it was there, or who it was for, there would some serious confusion.

Now imagine, that cake is software with no instructions, a pretty resume with no structure, a business or marketing plan with no goals, a marketing flier with two little or too much information, an employee manual that hasn’t been updated. Not so funny now.

Instructions no matter what they are pertain to need to be clear and concise; even if it just a cake sitting in the break room.

Why am I a technical writer?

My earliest memories of dealing with writing or words would be my Grandfather Janes reading to me as a child in Escondido, California. He was also a mechanic who loved to fix cars and help people as often as he could. I would get to hang out in the garage and watch him take things apart and put them back together. In fact, the smell of grease and oil will make me tear up and think of him every time.

I have also had really good English teachers who always found a way to include poetry, essays, or literature into their lesson plans. I still have haiku’s that I wrote in first or second grade tucked away in a box. However, it just wasn’t the lesson plans, it was their excitement for what they were teaching and their ability to let me be me. Even when it meant compromising their time to help me pass their classes.

In high school, I knew deep inside that I wanted to be a  writer or work with English in some way. I also knew that I did not want to be a teacher. I could handle dealing with the children but I was not willing to deal with the parents. My counselor  at the time said that the only thing I could do with an English degree would be teaching. She tried to force me into other career paths that I knew I was unsuited for but the personality tests claimed I would be perfect for. This is when I gave up.

I became pregnant with my first child, met my husband, had our second child, got married, had our third child. I was a stay at home mom without a high school degree who quickly realized that I was going to have a problem when my kids got into high school. After all, why should they graduate when neither my husband or I.

I got my GED in 1999. I attended my first day of college and passed my driver’s license test on the same day in August of 2000. While in college, I found out about the technical communication program. I choose to major in English, with an emphasis in Professional and Technical Communication. It took me a little bit longer than most to graduate, nine years, but in 2009 I graduated. All three of my kids have graduated high school and one of them is currently in college.

In a way, my story has come full circle, I love the English word and like my Grandfather I like taking things a part, putting them back together, and helping other people do the same.

by Melinda Anderson