re: Technical Writers Using Shorthand or Speedwriting

Subject: re: Technical Writers Using Shorthand or Speedwriting
From: "Christensen, Kent" <lkchris -at- sandia -dot- gov>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 22 Mar 2001 11:09:06 -0700

re: I'm finding that when I'm sitting with SMEs or in meetings/conferences,
it would be helpful for me to use either shorthand or speed writing. ... A
more up-to-date approach would be to use a small tape recorder, but most
people are uncomfortable using it. I would like to be more discreet in my
note-taking. (Paula)

Paula, at the risk of wasting your time by not directly answering your
query, stating the obvious, suggesting the impossible, or just making you
mad, I offer the following:

I recommend rethinking the notion of taking notes altogether. Instead, I
suggest hands-on use of your firm's product is the better approach. Now,
your group may have a tradition of formal "design reviews" (or whatever
they're called at your location) and this can of course continue--I'd just
not look to these meetings as the source of the information you need from
SMEs. Rather, try to find a way to get your SME to demonstrate your product
and to have this session be one where you get to "drive" too. I imagine
there is some sort of cognitive research result somewhere to the effect that
having done it and touched it enhances memory, i.e., what you're looking for
from notes. Also, I think the psychological effect is good too, as perhaps
most SMEs take some "pride" in showing off their work and in seeing others
use it. Additionally, the "capital" you amass with this behavior can give
you some to spend in going back with follow-up questions, i.e., the repeat
questions should be not as badly received. It's also not so hard to take
notes in one of these hands-on sessions anyway, as there isn't as much time
pressure as in a formal meeting. It's good too, if you can arrange the
follow-up opportunity to go back and "drive" without the SME being there.
And, there's no reason the manual can't also be in a corresponding state of
completion at the more formal design review meetings too, i.e., perhaps the
meeting can be redesigned as a review of the manual too. You'll remember
that feedback for sure.

Of course you didn't state your goal, and I'm assuming it is gathering
information for the manual, etc. If it's to publish minutes of the meeting,
take a tape recorder!


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