TechWhirl: Technical Communications Recap for February 3, 2012

This week’s technical communications update is supported by Gold sponsor ComponentOne & their Doc-To-Help Help Authoring Tool |

From the Desk of the Editor

Six more weeks of winter (as predicted by various groundhogs across the United States) gives us plenty of time to delve into our topic of “More than 1000 words-techniques for visual communications.”  We plan to take a look at creating interactivity with images and get an introduction to 3D graphics, but as I pointed out yesterday in my call for articles, the topic of visuals in technical writing gives us so much territory to cover. Many Whirlers have vast experience in designing and producing visual content, and we’re asking for your ideas and contributions to provide useful and relevant information to your technical communications colleagues.

Meet Us in Memphis @WritersUA ContestHowever, six more weeks of winter can’t change the fact that today is the last day of our Meet us in Memphis @WritersUA guest writers contest.  You still have about 12 hours to follow WritersUA (@WritersUA) and TechWhirl (@TechWriterToday) and tweet why you are the best choice to join us at WritersUA Conference for Software User Assistance on March 11-14.  Free conference registration, the chance to attend great seminars in tools and technologies, emerging skills, and content strategy, and hang with TechWhirl in the land of blues, barbecue and bourbon… in exchange for covering the conference as a journalist/blogger.  Time to get tweeting—you have until midnight.

To stretch this groundhog analogy past the breaking point, it appears that many technical writing and technical communications professionals are emerging from their burrows all around the Internet.  They’re taking part in discussions (January 2012 was literally twice as busy as January 2011 on the email discussion list and our best January since 2007), comment on our technical writing and technical communications articles and Tech Comm news in the magazine, and search the Tech Writer List archives for kernels of useful information.

It’s not just us, the amount of great thinking and ideas from writers, bloggers, Tweeters (is this a word?) around the Internet that we get to review for our weekly online roundup, Tech Writer This Week, keeps getting bigger and bigger.  Before we forget, thank you, thank you, thank you to the great duct tape writer, Craig Cardimon for his diligent reviews and recommendations on this weekly piece.

We are thrilled to see this enthusiasm and conversation build in the technical writing community, and are absolutely ecstatic to be a part of it.  Please let us know what we can do to ensure your involvement in TechWhirl and the broader technical communications world is as satisfying and enlightening as you want it to be… that’s what we’re here for.

Have a great weekend!

– The gang at TechWhirl


In Case You Missed it: This Week  @ TechWhirl

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Tech Comm News:


Technical Communications: What You’re Talking About

A quick shout out to our Technical Writers and their discussions in our email discussion group:

  • Debbie of NuVision had “Another Punctuation Question” concerning the use quotation marks and named buttons in documentation. Punctuation questions are like word usage questions in the volume of responses that they elicit. Use of punctuation with quotation marks varies between UK English and US English to even further muddy the waters. One poster recommended putting brackets around button names to avoid the issue altogether—seems like a sensible alternative.
  • Nancy Allison worried that “Linked-In: Your Skills’ Desirability Is Cratering Year Over Year,” after getting an email encouraging her to add skills to her profile.  The LinkedIn Skills feature is still officially in Beta, and a lot of confusion surrounds what the year-over-year percentage indicator actually means (currently showing -4% for Technical Writing). And that really got Whirlers talking about the profession in terms of growth. That morphed into a discussion about “Tech Comm Trends,” which referenced the popular and worth-listening-to webinar delivered by Char James-Tanny and Sarah O’Keefe.
  • Kevin McLaughlin had one of those word usage questions when he asked the list whether one of two possible sentence constructions was “WRONG-ish.”  Whirlers seem to agree that “we recommend” does not convey the tone required for a caution or warning, and suggest that Kevin use the imperative, with some indication of the consequences to the reader of not doing what they’re told.

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We want to send a very special “thank you” to our sponsors for their support.

Platinum: Adobe Systems Incorporated

Gold: ComponentOne Software, Madcap Software

Silver: Society for Technical Communication (STC)Vancouver Island University

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