About me

I'm a geek working as a distance learning specialist for a large corporation.

My Pandora "radio station" profile
This is my favorite way to listen to music now.

My Yahoo "radio station"
(Unfortunately, only works in IE.)

Shopping

Looking to purchase something online? Support Caddickisms by going through one of these links:

Caddickisms Store

Amazon.com

Calendar

October 2008
S M T W T F S
« Sep   Nov »
 1234
567891011
12131415161718
19202122232425
262728293031  

Topics

Posts by month

Around the site

Two "robots" found on YouTube today... One: paint this dark grey and it would be the coolest homemade AT-ST (All Terrian-Scout Transport) Halloween costume on the block. Just add a WookieYouTube robots

Slideshow: Vampire for Minn. Governor I don't even know what to say about this. It's simultaneously hilarious, alarming, depressing, and sick.WGAL.com - Slideshow

Hi-tech escape from Tower of London | Reuters.com This is a very cool, [tag]interactive[/tag], [tag]technology-enabled teaching[/tag] method. Visitors to the [tag]Tower of London[/tag] can participate in a [tag]game[/tag]—powered by GPS, aHi-tech escape from Tower of London

I've posted before about the Green Lantern movie(s) in the works. No cast has been announced, no real information has come to my attention at all about the live actionNathan Fillion as Green Lantern? - Tuesday TubeWatch

The Second Chance DVD Steve Taylor is no stranger to controversy. His music in the '80s was unabashedly pointed at issues of hypocrisy and general laziness within Christian communities and itsReview: The Second Chance

I was giving Heroes the benefit of the doubt. Sure, they'd stumbled. The brother/sister Mexican road trip last season was a big mistake. This season was an improvement for a"Heroes" hits bottom and grabs for the shovel

“Journeyman” Will Get Its 12 Episodes - Slice of SciFi Well, it sounds like saner heads have prevailed... for now. NBC has given the green light to the final two produced“Journeyman” Will Get Its 12 Episodes - Slice of SciFi

Hana Gittleman's "covert" site This site gives you the chance to join in on the Heroes storyline and become a part of the story. There are links to other websites fromHeroes Viral Marketing

That's not a euphemism. I actually felt the earth move last night. We had an 3.4 earthquake at midnight last night, with an epicenter about 5 miles from my house.I feel the earth move under my feet...

Unlike the companions in this episode, I will not be trying to prevent spoilers. I'm gonna lay it all out there, so if you haven't seen the episode, don't readReview: Doctor Who: The Impossible Astronaut

Look, let's just get right to it. If the movie is nearly as good as this trailer makes it out to be, it's going to be awesome... I was let downDeathly Hallows trailer released

Yesterday afternoon I was, as usual, working from my office upstairs. Pam and the girls were on a walk around the neighborhood, so it was just me in the house.Kids these days (or Get off my lawn!)

Here's the cure to boredom! Over 200 Christmas specials on Fanpop! Yes, this includes all the old favorites you've come to know and love: A Charlie Brown Christmas... Frosty the Snowman... The YearStuck in the office (or your in-laws' house) during Christmas week?

Over Memorial Day weekend, my wife and I foisted my 2 kids on my parents and ran for the hills, totally taking advantage of my parents' generosity to spend 6Double Review: Narnian royalty return to take down Indiana Jones

I mentioned this a while back, but this guy decided to use the power of the internet to break Star Wars up into 15 second segments and have people submitStar Wars, like you've never seen it before

Technical writers, pay attention

New York Times columnist David Pogue has had two extremely good posts lately. One is aimed squarely at general computer users, and both are of great use to technical writers.

In the generally focused Tech Tips for Basic Computer Users, he points out things that all us geeks think everybody knows about computers. There are a fair amount that I didn’t know, however, so the list’s worth a look (though the article is so popular that it may have overloaded NYT’s comment system – the page took a really long time to load).

Here are two examples:

  1. Pressing ALT and the Tab key together in Windows will cycle you through all of your open programs. I’m frequently amazed when people don’t know that simple time-saver.
  2. Pressing ALT and F4 together will close the current window. So if you do it now, it will close this browser.

Takeaway for technical writers: Don’t assume your readers know these shortcuts. Be specific in how to perform required tasks.

The other article is good for any business writer, really, but it’s especially well suited to technical writers.

It’s really easy, as a writer, to slip into jargon. We’re comfortable with the specialized language and the meanings of all these words that confuse regular people. If you’re responsible for communicating with someone who doesn’t live and breathe in your corner of the world, though, you’ve got to be careful to use plain language.

Here’s an excerpt from Pogue’s article:

* Display. “Display” can be a noun (“a display of fireworks”). It can also be a verb that takes a direct object (“He displayed emotion”). It is not, however, a verb without a direct object, except in magazines like PC World: “Shows filmed in high-definition end up displaying in letterbox format.”

Displaying what in letterbox format? Fireworks? Emotions?

The word this writer was looking for is “appearing.”

[...]

* Enable. Who on earth says, “Enable the GPS function”? Only user-manual writers and computer-book authors. Say “Turn on GPS” instead.

[...]

* Functionality. WOW, do I despise this pretentious word. Five syllables–ooh, what a knowledgeable person you must be!

It means “feature.” Say “feature.”

I’ll add my own pet peeve here: Utilize. I want to scream every time I see this word. It’s another example of trying to sound smarter. It’s “use”. There is absolutely no difference in meaning. “Use” is much simpler and more common. That’s a good thing. Use it.

Oh, and while I’m talking about writing skills, here’s another tip for everyone, and it applies to speaking as well: be careful with clichés. If you’re not 100% sure you know it, don’t use it (or better yet – GASP – look it up!). Example: it’s not “for all intensive purposes,” it’s “for all intents and purposes.” “Intensive purposes” doesn’t even make sense. Think about what you’re saying. Most of the time, that will help.

Okay, I’m off to utilize the functionality of the TV remote control to enable the screen to display. For all intensive purposes, that should wrap up my night.

Tags: , , , , ,

5 comments to Technical writers, pay attention

  • found this post via your 3-years lookback..via Lee’s blog.
    Great post! I really hate it when I see words that could have easily been replaced by a far simpler word. Among those words are a lot of words directly used from English to Dutch..and ‘Dutchified’ ..just horrible.
    It’s always good to bear the technical writer stuff in mind because it’s partly my job to write decent texts (that is..when I’m done studying).

    Arjans latest blog post..A shadow of myself

    Reply to this comment

    Jeff says:

    Hey, Arjan… nice to see you.

    In a sick way I’m kind of happy that the problem exists in other languages, too… :P

    Oddly, I don’t typically get upset about Anglicized words. There are enough problems with people butchering English with English, I guess, that I just let those go as colorful.

    I’ve got a couple more “technical writer” posts in the queue, so you might want to watch for them.

    Reply to this comment

  • Jeff,

    When I read what you said about “utilize,” I cried.

    At last… someone who UNDERSTANDS!

    Reply to this comment

    Jeff says:

    Hallelujah! Thanks for leaving the comment. :) It’s good to know I’m not out there alone…

    Reply to this comment

Leave a Reply

  

  

  

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

CommentLuv badge