TechWhirl Tech Writer Recap for January 6, 2012

This week’s update is supported by Platinum sponsor Madcap & their Ultimate Communications Suite, MadPak |

From the Desk of the Editor

Two things seem to be de rigueur in professional communications of all types when the New Year rolls around: predictions & trend spotting, and lots of refreshers on the mechanics of writing and editing.

TechWhirl’s trend analysis for 2012 appeared this week, and we’ll devote the month of January to getting “Back to Basics.”  My crystal ball doesn’t incorporate bleeding edge technology, and those tarot cards are probably ready for a serious revision cycle, but I’ve taken some time to read and research the TechWhirl discussion list, tech comm forums, top tech comm bloggers, vendor sites, and some trends are worth noting so take a look at Trends for Technical Communicators to Watch in 2012 and give us some feedback on how you see these trends or the ones you think we’ve missed.

We’ve started our month of back-to-basics with a classic piece on gender-neutral writing by the great Jean Hollis Weber. Throughout the month we’ll look at more on writing and editing, but also look at some other basics we tend to let slide, like figuring out what kind and how much documentation our products really need.  I encourage you to let us know if you think there’s an idea worth covering in this area, or anything else related to technical communications. We’re always open to new article ideas. While submitting an idea doesn’t necessarily mean you’re signing up to write it, you are welcome to become part of the Special Writers Unit.

Finally, TechWhirl congratulates the Top Ten Most Influential Bloggers in technical communications as cited by MindTouch, including Techwhirlers Anne Gentle, Bill Swallow, Char James-Tanny, and David Farbey. They along with Tom Johnson (I’d Rather Be Writing), Sarah O’Keefe (Scriptorium), RJ Jacquez, the STC, and Alan Houser contribute a great deal to the technical communications field, and we certainly couldn’t do what we do without any of them. (By the way TechWhirl’s Tech Writer Today made the top 10 Most Emergent—we are humbled)

– The gang at TechWhirl


In Case You Missed it: This Week  @ TechWhirl

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What You’re Talking About

A quick What you talkin’ ‘bout to our Tech Writers and their discussions in our email discussion group:

  • CJ Daly needs to explain to the boss the tech comm responsibilities that go beyond writing documentation, and asked the list for descriptions of “interface editing.” Since the task references reviewing and recommending edits to the user interface, most responders suggested terms along the GUI editing and review front, including one that suggested “interface editing” is a perfectly acceptable description.
  • Lots of discussion ensued (pardon the pun) when Robert Lauriston brought up the issue of “updating copyright notice date ranges.” According to our Doug Isenberg article on Updating Copyright Notices, US copyright law does not directly address the question of date ranges, and it can be extremely confusing to know when to call out years specifically, and when to use a range.  Not surprisingly, the most practical advice is to check with an intellectual property attorney.
  • Sion Lane is “Disagreeing with house styles,” and looking for advice from Whirlers on handling that fingernails-on-a-blackboard feeling when reviewing documents that follow disagreeable style choices.  This recurring discussion brings up points about consistent use of styles, waiting until after proving yourself with the new employer, and how widely accepted references regard the terms in question.  And we’re reminded that the latest edition of Microsoft Manual of Style is due to be released shortly.  Stay tuned for more discussions!

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We want to send a very special “thank you” to our sponsors for their support.  Make a resolution to visit their sites and buy their stuff.

Platinum A: Adobe Systems Incorporated

Platinum B: Madcap Software, ComponentOne Software

Gold: Society for Technical Communication (STC), EC Software, Vancouver Island University

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