re What did you learn when you competed in the STC competition?

Subject: re What did you learn when you competed in the STC competition?
From: nosnivel <nosnivel -at- netvision -dot- net -dot- il>
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Date: Thu, 22 Feb 2007 09:08:39 -0800 (PST)

> If you've competed in an STC (or other technical doc) competition
> in the past as a judge and/or a submitter, what did you learn

I've never had occasion to compete, but I've judged several
times. The experience can occasionally be punctuated by
serendipitous learning, by which I mean I can find good
stuff to steal. For example, once I received as an entry
a stapled manual with a paragraph describing its purpose
and audience right on the cover. Good idea!-- especially
when there's a whole series of manuals for the same product.

In general, I've learned that there are no shortcuts to
quality. I'm no fan of big business in principle, but the
best work does tend to come from big companies with big
budgets and with the market clout to let the customers
wait while they put the documentation though laborious
design, editing, and QA. Of course being big is no
guarantee of quality, as we all know. But being
understaffed and hurried is a near-guarantee of

I've learned to accept the fact that the manual's accuracy
can seldom be judged in such a competition, but what I still
find difficult to accept is the amount of emphasis that the
STC places on design as against writing.

And last but not least, as a member of a judging panel I've
learned that other people do notice, and care about, some
details that pass me right by.

Mark L. Levinson - nosnivel -at- netvision -dot- net -dot- il
Mark discourses to fellow Israeli techwriters in
The Why of Style, at

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