Re: Advice on starting out; dealing with employers

Subject: Re: Advice on starting out; dealing with employers
From: Carter Campbell <lists -at- soph-text -dot- com>
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Date: Fri, 29 Apr 2011 10:35:33 -0600

Chris Morton wrote:

[. . .]
One tip I'm going to offer right away is to eliminate using two spaces after
punctuation in all further communications. Regardless of how you were taught
in high school or college, this convention became an anachronism as manual-
and non-IBM Selectric typewriters became relegated to The Antiques Road
Show.
Man, I can't believe that this keeps rearing its ugly head. I am not going to try to start this same tired old fuss-session up again (well, I guess I am, but only quickly), but other than the result being "pretty" and that it's "just not cricket", do you think there might be another reason why you might want two spaces after a period instead of one?

I would think that it would depend on your audience and not on your own delicate sense of style. There are groups of people with learning and reading disabilities (such as dyslexics) that find it difficult to read through or scan a document that looks as if it is rammed altogether. Since many of these people are taught to read patterns, they will look for a larger space between sentences to give them visual cues.

Also, since the documents we create are suppose to be information tools first and lovingly crafted examples of personal expression second, I would think that we would be willing to over look the desperate need to spend time debating one or two spaces and decide what is best for our end-readers. If, in your best estimates, you are in a domain that "would probably not have too many people who struggle to read", then one space would be just fine.

It can also be argued that a work of fiction, which IS art (for the most part), should have one space, because two spaces breaks up the aesthetic of the page, but I don't think that we intentionally write fiction.

Just sayin'

--
Carter Campbell
Technical Communications
lists -at- soph-text -dot- com
Calgary Alberta

On Fri, Apr 15, 2011 at 8:31 AM, Joan Wamiti <jwamiti -at- breakeveninc -dot- com>wrote:

Hey All,

I'm new here, both to the list and to technical writing. I've been lurking
for a few weeks, browsing the archives and reading the daily digests with
interest.

Some background: I've just been hired by a tiny software/consulting firm
as
a Business Analyst. However, since I have a little experience with
writing,
they'd also like me to be responsible for their documentation needs -
mainly
a help guide/wiki for the software that our clients use. There's also talk
of a blog...

My undergrad was a combination of Math and Economics, and my writing
experience comes from writing personal projects and working as a
copy-editor
for the on-campus newspaper. Technical/scientific writing is something
that
I've been interested in for a long time, and I've done some investigation
into courses/online resources.

Questions:
1. What are some good basic resources for someone just starting out? I
was
thinking about a dictionary and a technical style guide (I'm used to using
a
journalism one), but I feel like I need more information specific to
writing
user guides. I'm ok on the language front, but I'm at a loss when it comes
to file formats, document layout etc. Right now I'm writing everything up
in Word 2010, then emailing it to my boss, who inserts screenshots and
converts it to pdf. In reading some of these threads, it's pretty clear
that I have a lot to learn, but I don't want to overwhelm myself with
unnecessary information.

2. What should I keep in mind when dealing with my employer? My bosses
have technical backgrounds and only have the haziest idea of what their
requirements are - they want a wiki, client-specific help guides, and a
blog. They have no idea of what a style guide is or why anyone would need
one. I feel like I come off sounding fussy and pedantic about getting
documentation right, but I want to do a really good job with it, even if
I'm
just a beginner. I've clarified who my primary audience is (the end-user)
and the blog isn't a priority right now.

3. Credit/attribution - how do I address this with my employer? I've
already written up some user documentation for clients. I'd like to be
able
to use some of what I've done for a portfolio, but I'm dealing with a lot
of
proprietary information, some of which I can't just scrub/block out
(describing processes etc.). I've only started working for this company
and
I'm hesitant to bring this up right away, but I don't want this to become a
problem later on. I know I could save all my work for a portfolio and use
it anyway, but I'd rather have permission.

4. How do I deal with previous documentation? There's already some
existing documentation that I'm expected to review (and most probably
revise). Some of it is inconsistent, jargon-filled and unclear, and
there's
a lot of Power Point presentation style to it (lots of unneeded bullet
points and sentence fragments). I don't lie when the previous writer asks
me about it - I do my best to be tactful with questions/comments since the
person who wrote it is my boss, but he doesn't seem to think that the
inconsistencies/lack of clarity matter. What's a good way of showing him
the importance of documentation?

These are the main issues I've been thinking about. I'd appreciate it if
you could let me know if I'm on the right track, or if there's anything
else
I should think about.

Oh, and this is supposed to comprise a fraction of my normal duties.

Joan
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Follow-Ups:

References:
Advice on starting out; dealing with employers: From: Joan Wamiti
Re: Advice on starting out; dealing with employers: From: Chris Morton

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