A survey of 39 communicators in high-tech industries reveals low use of computerized readability formulas. Both technical and business communicators find current measures ill suited for the process or product of technical writing.
Users are encountering more and more situations where task dotumentation separates topics too much for the interconnected nature of the task. These complex processes require an approach that takes into account the effect of strategy on the outcome of the task. Users have to know what factors affect the quality and type of output, and the stages where branching will depend upon these choices. This paper deals with the methodology required to help users in trouble in complex tasks. It also presents the types of situations where this approach is most useful.
Recent advances in technology have brought today’s technical communicators to a crossroads. Writers are faced with the choice of learning a host of new skills not related to traditional writing skills or of becoming dependent on specialists in other fields to complete the technical communication process. By viewing new technologies asopportunities rather than problems, writers can gain control of the media as well as the message, increasing their ability to control the entire communication process.
Who should be listed as the authors of an article for a journal or conference proceedings? The basic requirement for authorship is that an author should be able to take public responsibility for the content of the paper. People who may have contributed intellectually to the work but whose contributions do not justify authorship may be acknowledged in the appropriate section of the paper.
Creating good sentences involves some basic guidelines, including making sure that each sentence states clearly who or what does what, controlling subordination, using familiar subject-verb order, controlling pronoun use, using action verbs and active voice, forgetting silly rules, placing modifiers properly, using punctuation to reveal sentence structure, and using correct grammar and syntax. Editing sentences requires some understanding of grammar and syntax to recognize errors and explain changes. Reading aloud and checking sentence length and pronoun reference can help, and reading well-edited writing can help develop a good 'ear' for sentences.
Conversation is a theme that flows through all the work we do as technical communicators. Every use of your web site is a conversation started by a busy site visitor.
With books and manuals, users decide what information 1. they want and when they will acquire it. With training materials, however the writer/instructional designer controls the flow of information and the way in which it is presented. To write training materials requires careful consideration of adult learning principles, the possibilities and limitations of presentation media and, for classroom training, the difference between written and spoken language. A training writer also needs to distill from complex concepts the main points that participants will remember after the training.
Processes and procedures are part of our everyday lives. When we have a problem following a set of instructions or difficulty understanding when we are supposed to perform a specific task, we realize first-hand the importance of processes and procedures in our lives. In order to develop successful processes and procedures, we must understand the differences between these two document types. Processes describe a sequence of tasks while procedures describe how to perform a specific task. However, knowing the differences between processes and procedures isn’t enough. We must also use audience analysis.
The rapid growth in demand for technical communicators is mirrored and driven by the continuing evolution of emerging technologies. Businesses striving to use technology to effectively position themselves must understand the role that the technical communicator plays in this evolution. As we continue to acquire a toolbox of skills, we enhance our proficiency as Renaissance communicators and propel our roles into the realm of knowledge management.
Book reviews in a journal such as Technical Communication succeed when the right chemistry between reviewers and editor. Reviewers should recognize the multiple purposes of book reviews. They must contribute knowledge, integrity, writing ability, and objectivity to the review section. The editor, in turn, must be a people person, record keeper, visionary and nerd.