communication for the real world


Design and typography basics — The talk

This is the talk I gave with the webinar I delivered on Tuesday 31 January 2012, Design and Typography for Technical Communication.

If you would like to have the accompanying slides, download them here.

typewriter key alphabet

A cacophony of choice

Unless we are making simulations or videos that depend on action and voiceover to get the point across, technical communicators communicate in text and in illustrations with text associated with them. These are words on a page or on a screen. It seems simple, yet we have so many choices to make. We are not limited to single-spaced or double-spaced text typed in rows. We are not limited to one wide column or two narrow columns. We are not limited to black and white. We are not limited to books. We are not limited to paper.

[

February 2, 2012  

Design and typography basics — The presentation

Download [PDF] presentation file [1.8M]

If you want to, you can read the talk that I gave when I showed the slides.

The webinar was made possible through the support of the STC Europe SIG and the STC France chapter, and with the Help, as moderator of Stuart Culshaw.

Thanks to the organizers, to Stuart Culshaw, and to everyone who participated.

Special thanks to those who gave me their time and advice as I prepared the presentation. You know who you are.

February 1, 2012  

Measuring quality — The talk

This is the talk I gave with the webinar I delivered on Tuesday 22 March 2011, Measuring the Quality of your Documentation.

If you would like to have the accompanying slides and quality-measurement tool, download them here.

Factory man being efficient

Getting things done

Wherever you work, whether it’s in a calmly organized editorial group, alone facing down deadlines in a home office, or running from project to project like a blue-assed fly, you would like to know how you stack up, how you are doing.

But you don’t have time to stop and look around. You have deliverables. You need to have things move along so that you get things done. The result of getting things done, of course, is product. And product can be measured. [Read more →]

March 24, 2011  

Measuring quality: Presentation and tool for you to use

Here are the files from the webinar I delivered on Tuesday 22 March 2011, Measuring the Quality of your Documentation.

Download [PowerPoint 2007] presentation file [1.6M]

Download [Excel 2007] quality-tool file [19k]

If you want to, you can read the talk that I gave when I showed the slides.

The webinar was made possible through the support of the STC Europe SIG and the STC France chapter, and with the corporate sponsorship of UTC Fire & Security.

Thanks to the organizers, to our corporate sponsor, and to everyone who participated.

Special thanks to those who gave me advice as I prepared the tool: the brainy shakytweets, the incomparable dfarb, the scintillating finiteattention, and the endlessly knowledgeable ellispratt. If I have forgotten you, I have not forgotten you. You know who you are.

March 21, 2011  

Using quality to your advantage?

I am presenting a tool I developed to help you do just that in a webinar at 19:00 Central European Time on Tuesday 22 March 2011.

Measuring the Quality of your Documentation

Learn about your weak areas in technical communication, how to improve the quality of your technical communication, and how to create useful project metrics.

The webinar is [

March 21, 2011  

Going that extra mile with the two major Englishes

Spring bluebells in beech woodland, Dockey Woods, Buckinghamshire, England

It takes about 15 minutes to walk a mile. I’ve walked countless city streets, country lanes, and unmarked fields to go a mile. It’s 15 minutes, give or take. It’s not that far.

In the world of specialised writers—technical, scientific, corporate—few seem to be interested in improving their ability with the two major branches of English:

March 9, 2011  

Learning editorial TLC: editing Dutch-authored English

A Bernini angel standing on drifting clouds

On Friday 14 January 2011, a group of SENSE editors got together in one of the Park Plaza Hotel meeting rooms in Utrecht, something we rarely get to do because of our work schedules and because, as John Edmund Hynd said, “You would have to go a long way to find another workshop anything like this.” We were editing Dutch-authored English with Dr Joy Burrough-Boenisch. [Read more →]

January 31, 2011  

Tools that work

This article is adapted from a presentation (PDF, 772KB) delivered to the Society for Technical Communication TransAlpine chapter annual conference in Ljubljana, Slovenia on Friday, 18 April 2008. This presentation cannot be printed, distributed, or otherwise used without the written permission of the author. All rights reserved.

Textured wall, Ljublana, Slovenia

Are expectations of your work constantly changing, or ill-defined? Do your projects suffer from scope creep with no sense of the original agreement, and no understanding of the time needed to meet delivery schedules? Are you juggling multiple projects, multiple timelines, and trying to muddle through scoop creep? [Read more →]

April 24, 2008  

A basic study of the specialised writing and editing industry in the Netherlands

Dutch tulips

To find out more about the specialised writing and editing industry in the Netherlands, and about the effect that the European Union is having on the industry, I conducted a basic study in which I approached three Netherlands-located specialised writing and editing societies: EASE, SENSE, and STIC. EASE is the European Association of Scientific Editors, with about 7.5% of its members in the Netherlands (its presidency, however, is in the Netherlands). SENSE is the Society of English Native-Speaking Editors, with strong editing and translating components to its membership. STIC is the Studiekring voor Technische Informatie en Communicatie, the Dutch technical information and communication society. SENSE and STIC are based in the Netherlands and contain a majority of Netherlands-located members. In each case, I contacted the society leadership and asked to interview a member of the leadership. [Read more →]

April 4, 2008  

The Amsterdam LIG in Gelderland

On a recent Sunday, members of the Amsterdam LIG drove down to Ede, in the charming Dutch province of Gelderland. There we tucked in to a long lunch with a group of editors, writers, and translators. The talk was lively and ranged over the health of the Dutch authoring industry, linguistics, grammar, and the special challenges presented when producing work in a non-native-speaking environment where many of our Dutch colleagues are confident that their knowledge of English grammar and phrasing is better than ours. It was decided that the industry seems lately to be thriving, and that some of the best ways of looking at English from a fresh angle come when a non-native speaker insists on a point of grammar or phrase that we might not agree with. It is a valuable skill to be able to defend your authoring choices based on research rather than hearsay, and to prove the professional worth of the professional author, technical or otherwise. After lunch we took a long walk in the Veluwe forest despite the usual persistent rain. All in all, it was a wonderful opportunity for the Amsterdam LIG to expand contacts and talk shop, even though we all got a bit soggy.

November 29, 2007  

A leak leads to a job change

blue sky with clouds

Most of the time, my fellow technical writers want to hear about the shift from the chains of permanent full-time work to the freedom of contracting. I agree that contracting is freer. You are free to do all the marketing required to keep yourself (and your subcontractors) in billable hours. You are free to travel to different clients constantly, racking up kilometers on your car (or bus and train tickets) which you are then free to administer in your bookkeeping and accounting which you are also free to calculate and remit in time to make your quarterly tax payments. You are free to manage your own pension scheme, health insurance, and business insurance. [Read more →]

November 30, 2006  

You Can Get There from Here

road with trees

Although they are about the same distance apart geographically, Madrid is not to Munich what Manhattan is to Miami. In Europe, short distances can mean big differences in expectation and understanding as well as in language and culture! [Read more →]

March 24, 2006  

Technical communication contracting in Europe

autumn leaves
After a particularly vicious downturn from mid-2001 through the end of 2002, the market in Europe seems to be improving. Diverse regions and industries are holding steady or even showing a bit of upswing. Alice Jane Emanuel, Director of Comma Theory, a communications company in Amsterdam, spoke to recruiters to find tips for contractors to improve their business right now. [Read more →]

November 16, 2005  

The Awards Event in Amsterdam, 5 February 2005

yellow tulips

Another Competition Done and Dusted

The 2004 edition of the Trans-European Technical Communications Competition completed smoothly once again last December under the capable guidance of this year’s Competition Manager, Jennifer O Neill. The results were collated, the entrants advised. All that remained was the awards supper held in a European city as an opportunity to meet in a social setting, reward ourselves for work well done, and distribute awards. [Read more →]

February 21, 2005