Writers Resources

DITA

A Technical Writer has to stay up to date on the latest publishing software and trends within our field. We also have to be able to explain those software or trends to our employers or clients. I started to read about DITA about three years ago and I did not pay much attention. I was hired by YESCO Electronics as a technical writer. Their software choice was Adobe InDesign with their publishing choice being PDF. I was okay with this until I started documenting several different types of documentation that consisently required updating.

I started to read more about DITA and how efficient it could be. I tried to find a way to pitch DITA to the company. However, I could not find an article that really delved into the why should I care as a technical writer or why my employer should care; until now. “Why Should I Care About Dita? by Jacquie Samuals, published by TechWhirl, explains why technical writers should care about DITA. It also has some pointers to bring to management that would make any team look into DITA such as consistency and quality.

If you are a technical writer or a student in this field, I highly recommend that you read this article.

PDF, RTF, TXT, DOC, DOCW…. Which file extension do I use?

There are several different word processors out there, each has advantages and disadvantages. They  each use different file tags and will access some of the universal tags differently. This is another area that Technical
Writers should be familiar with in order to survive.

A company will likely send a draft of what they want converted/translated/polished in a format using their preferred word processor. Yes, Word is popular, but there are still diehard Open Office, Wordperfect, and other word processor users out there and the extension (the three letters behind the dot that follows the file name) will be different for each.

Many word processors will convert files from other word processors to their format but the results may or may not be acceptable. PDF is another extension that is universal but typically information is lost and it is difficult to edit a PDF file.

There are two solutions to this dilemma. First, make sure that you have a working copy of every word processor used by any customer. This is the best solution but obviously this is impractical for most writers. The next best solution is to request that customers send files with a .rtf extension. Most word processors have a save as function and will allow users to send files with an RTF extension. The advantage is that RTF files can be opened by most other word processors. They can also be easily edited and saved into the same format without losing graphics and other information.

By Neil Dabb

Revised Mission Statement

I met with my partner, Neil, and we revisited the mission statement that I had created. This is what I had created:

DragonTech Writing is a contract technical writing service that provides documentation in the following areas software, process, business, marketing, and portfolios (resumes/cover letters) for companies and individuals. Our mission is to provide companies and individuals with documents that are clear, concise, and useable for their customers, clients, or perspective employers.

While he did like it, he felt that it could be stronger. Keep in mind that he has experience writing mission statements for non-profit organizations.

Our mission is to provide local businesses, individuals, and entrepreneurs with clear and concise business documents (such as resumes, cover-letters, business and marketing plans, instruction and operations manuals, portfolios, etc.) as well as instructions on how to use those documents. We will also aid businesses in documenting processes, hardware, and software.

What he did is he put the people and places that we are targeting first; whereas, I put the types of document first. Basically, that is our market people or businesses who need help with documentation. Our market is not documents, they are not going to make conscious decisions to hire us.

He then stated that we will provide these companies with clear and concise business documents and created a list in parenthesis that clearly shows what we offer. We offer a wide range of services that will continue to grow as our business develops. The parenthesis state here is what we have so far but we are not limiting ourselves and we will offer instructions for the use of these documents if needed.

I will admit I was upset at first; its that ego thing that gets in the way from time to time. In the end, I quickly realized that his mission statement wasn’t better than mine. They both state the exact same thing but his is stronger and targeted for our market.

i or I, that is the question..

I am currently formatting my poetry book and believe me it hasn’t been easy. I tried to do everything on computer but it just wasn’t working. Finally, I put the poems that I want to publish in one .pdf and printed it. I took all 50 some odd pages with me when my husband and I left to cook dinner at our local Elks Lodge.  Okay, he cooked and I was supposed to be the waitress.

However, not very many people showed up to eat dinner so I was able to arrange my poetry book. There were a few people who asked if they could read some of poems and I gladly let them. Everyone who read them seemed to enjoy them. I did get one comment about the i that I use stylistically versus the I that is proper grammar. I know that the I is proper grammar, I use it every day, in everything I write including text messages; much to my kids annoyance.

My poetry is not proper grammar never has been and never will because it is poetry not grammar. Poetry produces an image or a feeling in the mind of the reader and does not have a specific set of rules, grammar or other wise, governing it. For instance, take this poem that I wrote years ago:

You
sighing soft caress
gently whispered words
tender holding arms
soul burning passion
gazing long looks
sweet loving surrender
moonlit perfumed walks
sensuous silk
erotic love

I have been told that this poem is depressing and I can not figure out why. To me, the author, it is about love and how you feel when you are in love. I have reread it over and over again and I still do not understand how anyone could view this as depressing. It is a matter of perspective just like the i versus I in poetry is a matter of style.

My point is this, I know that if I sent a manuscript in to a publishing company with an i, I would get turned down. The little i, in my poetry, is my way of rebelling against the good grammar I use in my professional and personal life. It is part of my style and I am not going to change it just to get published. This is why I have chosen to self publish my poetry book and avoid the issue altogether.

By Melinda Anderson
reprinted from http://me1an.wordpress.com/

Mission Statement

I am starting to write the company goals for DragonTech Writing and have realized that we need a mission statement also known as a 60 second commercial. This statement needs to say who we are, what we offer, and tie into our company goals. Here is my first attempt at a mission statement:

DragonTech Writing is a contract technical writing service that provides documentation in the following areas software, process, business, marketing, and portfolios (resumes/cover letters) for companies and individuals. Our mission is to provide companies and individuals with documents that are clear, concise, and useable for their customers, clients, or perspective employers.

I think that sums it up for now. I am sure there is something I can add or take away, any thoughts?

By

Melinda Anderson

Painless? Hints for Re-writing.

For some writers the act of re-writing is the bane of their existence. For most of us, it is an absolute necessity. There are very few writers that can get away without some re-writing, and while the process of re-writing can be an adventure, for some of us, this is not the case. Here are a couple hints that may make the re-writing process more effective, and perhaps a bit less painful. These tips are given from the point of view of a fiction writer, but they should help the non-fiction writer as well.

The first tip, read your story backwards. If you have a hard copy, start from the last page and read one page at a time till you get back to the front. If you are working on the computer, read one screen at a time beginning at the end and moving toward the beginning.

When reading from the beginning to the end of a story it is easy to get involved in the story and miss grammar and spelling errors (sorry folks spell check is far from perfect). It is also easy to miss tense and voice issues such as passive verses active voice, past or present tense. Reading a story from the back to the front will aid writers in finding these types of issues.

The second tip, writing is like a fine wine, allow your story to age (put it away for a while). Allowing your writing to age gives the writer time to forget how great the words sounded when they were first put on paper (or into the computer). This helps the writer ensure that the words still sound good when the writer becomes the reader. It also allows the writer to find elements crucial to the story that never made it onto the page and fill them in. Also, like reading your story backwards, forgetting can aid the writer in seeing grammar, spelling and tense or voice issues. Giving your story time to age gives the writer a fresh perspective on the story allowing them to see flaws in the plot that may have slipped past them the first time.

How long a piece needs to age depends on the writer, and the piece. Some pieces require only a few days while other pieces may require months or years to reach their prime. Some writers may use this as an excuse to procrastinate, taking time off from their writing, but working on other projects during the aging process keeps the mind functioning and may allow the writer to discover even better ways of expressing the ideas in the story that is aging. Put the piece away, but not the pen!

The rewriting process is one that usually requires patience. Some writers consider it the bane of their existence. While reading the story backwards is time consuming it will reveal a different set of issues to the writer than reading the story start to finish. Likewise the aging process is time consuming, but the act of forgetting may not be a bad thing in this case. My experience has been that both processes can yield a much cleaner piece of writing when used properly and consistently.

By Neil Dabb