Inside this issue:
Welcome to the May issue of Memo to Members. I hope that you all had a very happy Mothers Day, and that you make the most of beach season if you’re a water lover.
Oh, and while you’re at it, definitely make the most of this month’s meeting! It’s this Thursday, May 21st, on the all-important Style Guides topic. This is a topic that speaks not only to seasoned veterans in the tech comm world, but also to newcomers like me. What’s more, I am especially excited to mention that this month’s presenter is none other than our own chapter Vice President, Mary Burns!
Please click here to RSVP and to learn more about this event. You’ll be very glad that you did.
This issue, we announce new Special Interest Groups within our chapter and recap the many awards that we celebrated over the past couple of months. Additionally, our two regular bloggers join forces for one knock-your-socks-off spotlight interview!
Additionally, here are some upcoming live web seminars that will be available on the STC website. I’m seeing an impressive variety that I believe has something to offer each of us, so check one out if you have the time! (If you take notes, perhaps you could even write an article for a future edition of Memo to Members. We would be thrilled to have you on board.)
Get Noticed and Get Promoted
Wednesday, 20 May 2015 | 2:00–3:00 PM EDT (GMT-4)
REST API Overview and Documentation Best Practices
Wednesday, 3 June 2015 | 2:00–3:00 PM EDT (GMT-4)
It’s Time to Spruce Up Your Writing!
Wednesday, 10 June 2015 | 2:00–3:00 PM EDT (GMT-4)
It’s Time to Spruce Up Your Writing!
Wednesday, 10 June 2015 | 2:00–3:00 PM EDT (GMT-4)
Part 1 in Video Series: Getting Started with Video Tutorials: How, When, and Why
Wednesday, 1 July 2015 | 2:00–3:00 PM EDT (GMT-4)
Visual Persuasion in the Digital Age
Wednesday, 8 July 2015 | 2:00–3:00 PM EDT (GMT-4)
Part 2 in Video Series: Audio for Video: Scripts and Voiceover
Wednesday, 15 July 2015 | 2:00–3:00 PM EDT (GMT-4)
Information Architecture Bottom Up
Wednesday, 22 July 2015 | 2:00–3:00 PM EDT (GMT-4)
Part 3 in Video Series: Screen Capture Tools: Choosing the Best Solution for Your Needs
Wednesday, 5 August 2015 | 2:00–3:00 PM EDT (GMT-4)
Part 4 in Video Series: Distributing Training and Help Videos: If You Build It, Will They Come?
Wednesday, 12 August 2015 | 2:00–3:00 PM EDT (GMT-4)
Every Page is Page One
Wednesday, 19 August 2015 | 2:00–3:00 PM EDT (GMT-4)
And with that, please read on, dear communicators.
Editor, Memo to Members
By Debra Johnson
Orlando Central Florida Chapter STC
Techniques, methodologies, processes, and standards… or as my team calls it, “TMPS” for short… are as important to us as Technical Communicators (TCs) and especially to me, as I continue to develop out our TechComm discipline at my current company.
It’s a never-ending task to stay relevant and up-to-date. A crucial part of that TMPS is our style guide. Since it is not possible for TMPS to apply to every possible scenario, it is important to have this style guide available for our TCs to reference. It is understood that this guide is our bible for developing our content and deliverables.
So I can tell you… it’s very exciting to have Mary Burns present this month on Building a Style Guide at our chapter meeting.
According to Wikipedia:
A style guide is a set of standards for the writing and design of content/documents, either for general use or for a specific publication, organization, or field. A style guide establishes and enforces style to improve communication. A style guide ensures consistency… whether its within a document and across multiple documents and enforces best practice in usage and in language composition, visual composition, orthography and typography.
For my situation, our TMPS is organized into different phases as they relate to our TC processes. Within each phase, there is a set of activities that the TC should complete in the normal course of their job activities. Along with these activities, we incorporate our style guide and associate these guidelines to activities and/or required steps, tools and best practices to accomplish our deliverables.
Style guides are so important…especially, for newer TCs.
So mark your calendars…for Mary’s presentation May 21, 2015… 6:30pm. We hope to see you at the Winter Park Civic Center!
We need your input on making The Orlando Central FL chapter an even better community than it has been!
We are now the only 9-time winner of the Chapter of Distinction… STC’s highest honor…Let’s keep it going!
See ya at the next meeting!
By: Mary Burns
Orlando Central Florida Chapter, STC
Most technical editors are certified word geeks. For example, I enjoy listening to a Great Courses lecture series on 24 CDs called Building Great Sentences on my commute. Having my awe at the power of a simple or sophisticated sequence of words is as energizing as a shot of high-octane coffee.
One of my favorite documentaries is Helvetica, a film focusing on the history and impact of the typeface of the same name. I also find diagramming sentences relaxing—a confession that gave my boss a good laugh.
How can an obsession with word crafting benefit your company? At our May meeting, I will present some thoughts on style guides. A good style guide is the key to freeing editors and writers to focus on effective content. I hope you can join us!
By: R.D. Sharninghouse
Orlando Central Florida Chapter, STC
On April 16th, the Orlando Central Florida chapter held their monthly meeting at the Winter Park Civic Center. Dawnell Claessen, an information policy analyst with more than 25 years of experience as a technical communicator, gave her presentation on Risk Communication. The presentation covered the process of putting together risk communication deliverables within a risk management framework. It was both informative and entertaining. I, for one, was very interested in the applications for risk communication, and am now aware of a whole new area of technical writing. As someone who has been searching for work within this industry, it’s nice to discover more angles to apply technical writing.
By: Jordie Rutledge
Orlando Central Florida, STC
We’re happy to announce the beginning of several SIGs within our chapter. It is our hope that these groups will become a place for you to network, converse, and problem-solve with like-minded people. Check out the list below and let us know if you’re interested in joining one of the following SIGs:
Aerospace & Defense SIG —For those involved or interested in Technical Communication within the aerospace/defense industry.
• Contact W.C. Weise: William.Wiese@us.meadsintl.com
New Technical Communicators SIG — For Tech Comm students or recent graduates to share their experiences and problem-solve together.
• Contact Jordie Rutledge: STCjordie@gmail.com
ToolTips SIG — For those interested in learning and sharing the tools of the trade.
• Contact David Coverston: email@example.com
Job Seekers SIG — For technical communicators currently in the job market to support each other in their searches.
• Contact R.D. Sharninghouse: firstname.lastname@example.org
By: Nick Ducharme
Editor, Memo to Members
STC Orlando Central Florida
As technical communicators and as members of STC, we’re always moving forward. We plan for upcoming meetings. We network with others both in and out of our field. We invest in professional development opportunities to learn about new best practices and new technologies.
Sometimes, however, we find strength in looking back. I would like to take a moment for that right now.
These past couple of months have given our chapter several causes to celebrate. We’ve recognized the accomplishments of some remarkable individuals, as well as a couple of chapter-wide feats. Let’s take a journey back in time together, to March and April of this year.
On March 19th, at the beginning of our March Employment Panel meeting, our chapter thanked two outstanding members for their time and effort.
Alex Garcia, my STC mentor from the 2013–2014 school year and a previous editor of Memo to Members, accepted the professional-level Distinctive Service Award for his work as chapter Treasurer. Go Alex!
Lisa Bottomley, a former classmate of mine, accepted the student-level Distinctive Service award for her work as Co-Manager of the chapter’s Education committee under Dan Voss. The level of involvement she’s shown is truly remarkable, and unquestionably deserving of the award.
You know ’em. You love ’em. The Melissa Pellegrin scholarships were back again during the Risk Communications chapter meeting on April 16th, with two new recipients of the $500.00 prize! Congratulations to Alexandra Cata-Ross and to Allison Young (another former classmate) for joining a long and prestigious list of Pellegrin winners. Your names will be in good company on the honorary plaque at the University of Central Florida’s main campus.
Our chapter has done it again. Perhaps you heard through the grape vine, or even at the April meeting (or in Debra’s article above), but: We’ve broken our own record of STC Community of Distinction awards, moving the golden count from eight to nine! It appears that a banner change is in order for the newsletter.
And while we’re back on the subject of the future, there is…one last piece of business for the somewhat distant future.
You ready for this?
STC has announced that the 2018 summit will be in Orlando from May 20–23! The last time that our community had the privilege of a local summit was back in the year 2000, so let’s make the most of it! Start marking your calendars now, folks.
And remember to celebrate.
By: Mike Murray
Former Chapter President
Before we get into discussions about our maladies, there are two words that will play an important part in your wellness battle: Acceptance and Gratitude.
First, there has to be acceptance. Michael J. Fox explains it this way: “Acceptance doesn’t mean resignation. It means understanding that something is what it is and there’s got to be a way through it.” Not so long ago, I was vocally bemoaning the fact that I have Parkinson’s disease (PD) [sic]. “I can’t believe this is happening to me,” I moaned. My son Aaron, who happened to be within earshot, said very sternly, “Well, it is!” The unspoken subtext was “… so deal with it!” In a word, accept it.
I certainly have two smart sons. That’s when I realized that my three or so years of self- pity had wasted a lot of my time and held me back from simply accepting my disease and allowing myself to think more positively. Acceptance allows you move on to the business of feeling better. But how was I able to turn the corner and begin thinking positively? That’s where Gratitude comes in.
Gratitude means being in the moment, refocusing your thoughts on the people and things that are all around you. The things that count most. Life. With all the joys and the tribulations. The complete package.
It means becoming aware of the roses that people are always telling you to stop and smell. The roses were always there; your hectic lifestyle simply didn’t allow you to see them or even be aware of them. PD forced me to retire early. It suddenly took me out of face-to-face contact with hundreds of friends; took away the strength in my legs, which required that I turn in my driver’s license; changed my voice so that I could no longer pursue my beloved “second career” of sports announcing; and left me lying in bed wondering what I was going to do with the rest of my life.
Overnight, I went from having too many irons in the fire to having not only no irons, but no fire.
After finally accepting that “it is what it is,” I’ve begun focusing on all the things I am grateful for. My way of maintaining that focus is to create a page-a-day calendar that I’m calling “365 Beautiful Days of Parkinson’s.” Here is what two of those pages will say:
“So, what do I want to do with the rest of my life? Now that I have the gift of time on my side, I’m free to consider my legacy. What do I want people to remember about me?”
“This is another day when I don’t have to participate in the rat race, a huge source of stress.”
Regardless of your malady, practicing Acceptance and Gratitude will add immeasurably to your mental and physical recovery.
It may be what it is, but by applying these two words, you can be what you have always been … and what you still are.
By: Tavia Record
Editor, On the Record
Orlando Central Florida Chapter, STC
I’m grinning as I type these words to you because I’m grateful for the opportunity to feature tech comm guru, Mike Murray for this session of the On the Record Spotlight. When I met Mike, I could sense the spirit of a fighter. Regal like a lion, he said to me, “you are definitely in the right place.” Mike Murray holds the honor of STC Associate Fellow, is a past three-time chapter president of the Orlando Central Florida STC chapter, and is also a 30-year member of the organization.
T: Dispel three myths about technical communications.
M: My main focus since joining STC has been on the young people who will be the technical communicators of the future. I have been the “Teacher of the Day” in area high schools at various times, where I was the English teacher for all of the classes all day. I have gotten various insights from these visits. In addition, as chapter president, one of my key focus areas was strengthening the relationship between our chapter and UCF. One result of these efforts has been former students who have gone on to take leadership positions in our chapter. The main three technical communications myths that I have picked up from these young people are:
That might be true if all you did was write. That’s when I pull out my portfolio and show them posters, newsletters, presentations, illustrated user guides, flyers, brochures, and other things you may be asked to do as a technical communicator. In the real world, this career field involves much more than writing. I never knew what to expect when I came to work every day. That’s what makes it so interesting – no, make that exciting!
The students who thought this were more familiar with novel writers who had many rejections and had to take on one or two more jobs just to survive. I could literally see their eyes open wider when I explained that you can make a good living as a technical communicator.
A really good writer doesn’t need to know anything about the subject matter prior to starting a project. Whoever hired you is the industry expert. A great technical writer knows not only what to ask, but also where to find the right information. Anyway, it’s not such a bad thing if you’re technically challenged. So are most of your users! You’ll be on a level playing field and will probably write a help manual that actually speaks their language.
T: How did you come into the technical communication profession?
M: I’ve always had what I can only call a natural writing ability. I believe it comes from my mother who regularly read to me and introduced me to various authors and genres. During my time in the Air Force, people came to me for help writing policies and procedures, resumes, presentations, etc. When I left the Air Force and signed on with Martin Marietta Data Systems (now Lockheed Martin), the same thing started happening. It took awhile, but I finally said to myself, “Self, if you are so good at writing and you like it so much, why not get paid for doing it?” At the time, there was a small writing group in the data center, so I proceeded to get to know them, volunteered to do some writing, and kept bugging them until they finally took me on full time. Persistence is important.
I joined STC 30 years ago in 1984. With partner in crime W.C. Wiese leading the way in 2001 as chapter president and myself as vice president, we were able to revitalize the Orlando Chapter. I was able to build on W.C.’s leadership with a three-year term as chapter president, during which time we won our first three Chapter of Distinction awards. I attribute that success to having great people on the Administration Council. That tradition lingers today.
After being hired by Martin Marietta Data Systems (now Lockheed Martin) as a computer operator (aka, tape hanger), I retired from Lockheed Martin on December 31, 2009, after 31 years as a computer operator, customer service representative, marketing support specialist, and technical communicator.
T: Who is DA VOICE of Orlando?
M: “DA VOICE” began life as “THE VOICE.” Before I was clinically diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, I had an awesome announcing voice. I have been the public address announcer for many events at all levels that include Little League Baseball, high school football, collegiate volleyball, collegiate basketball, professional football and professional basketball games.
I also made voice-overs and emceed many events for Lockheed Martin special events, corporate conferences, and employee video training.
I got my start when I began announcing at the youth football games I attended with my sons to help make the games more enjoyable for everyone. Before long, I realized that I was having a lot fun. Some of my most enjoyable moments have been with the Southside Steelers football team, Youth Basketball of America, Dr. Phillips High School football and basketball teams and the Rollins College women’s volleyball team.
DA VOICE came into being when I went to get a vanity license plate and was told that seven was the highest number of letters that a license plate could feature. DA VOICE fit perfectly!
T: Talk about an experience outside of the common technical fields of engineering, software development, and information technology that helped you in your work as a technical communicator.
M: The great majority of that experience came from my extensive work with non-profit organizations. Because volunteers come from such a wide variety of occupations and skill levels, it is especially important to make sure they understand the purpose of the organization, values, goals, etc. You have to work harder to “keep their eyes on the prize.” This increased focus has served me well as a technical communicator. I know what it takes up front to achieve the desired results.
T: Describe an experience you had as a voice-over that helped bridge the gap between users and content. How can someone interested in working in this role get started?
M: I remember a data security breach at Martin Marietta Data Systems that required me to work on creating an up-to-date security briefing. I was involved in the procedural writing and voice recording for a presentation that took seven or eight sessions to complete. The task ended successfully, and on time.
As for breaking into voice-over work, a simple Google of “voice-overs Orlando” gets you literally dozens and dozens of links leading to job opportunities, training, etc. One link literally says “How Do I Become a Voice-over Artist?” Additionally, I would create a few demo tapes to personally hand to the “right” people – the ones you have identified via your research who have the power to consider you for a job. Be creative in your approach, but most of all, BE PERSISTENT! Remember the story of Harlan Sanders, founder of Kentucky Fried Chicken? When trying to promote his chicken recipe, he got 1009 no’s before he got his first yes. With that one single yes, Colonel Harland Sanders changed the eating habits of the whole world with Kentucky Fried Chicken. Never, never, never give up!
T: What is an area in technical communication where improvements in accessibility are needed?
M: In the area of software accessibility, the wonderful thing is that accessibility helps more than just people with disabilities. My point is that there is a case for always thinking in terms of accessibility regardless of what you are writing or designing for. I advocate for the promotion and use of accessibility techniques as the norm for all technical communications products.
T: How can the points discussed in your article, “An Elephant in the Room,” apply to best practices regarding accessibility in the technical communication industry?
M: When designing software or engineering products, remove barriers to physical access, remove barriers to information, remove barriers in attitudes, and remove barriers to connect with one another.
Always use language that puts the person first when communicating with and about people with disabilities and avoid language that denotes that things or people don’t work. For example, “Person with Parkinson’s” instead of “Person who suffers from Parkinson’s,” or even accessible parking versus handicapped parking.
A disability is only one part of who a person is. See the whole person, not only the disability. Check out my personal blog: talesfromdavoice.wordpress.com, to read more on this topic, and other aspects about me. There are no elephants in the technical communication industry, or anywhere else for that matter, unless we create them!
T: Describe a quality you’ve embodied that has proven to be beneficial during your career.
M: Regardless of your occupation, a sense of humor is important. It keeps things interesting and minimizes your stress. When I was chapter vice president, I gave a “creativity” presentation that included Silly String, animal balloons, and magic tricks at a chapter meeting, which gave the feel of a show rather than a normal meeting. I choose to live my life to the fullest with a can of Silly String in each hand! It’s good advice, if I do say so myself.