Archive for the ‘Technical Writing’ Category

Top 50 Blogs and Feeds for Technical Communicators

February 15, 2011

Both my career and personal life is undergoing many dramatic changes. So I was not able to update anything over here after Jan 14th. On a pleasant surprise, I got an email from indoition.com stating that my blog too listed in the elite list. I am giving the URL so that  it will be easy to catchup other useful technical communication blogs. *ahem my blog  comes as forth from the top (of course there is no particular numbered list, number matters you know 🙂 )

Here we go:

Top 50 blogs and feeds

Video Resumes

December 27, 2010

 I had a mixed views on video resumes. Finally I wanted to give a try on that. So I made a movie (thanks to www.xtranormal.com) about myself, my education, expertise areas and work activities that I do. I have embedded that video my “About me” page. Please let me know your comments if any.  🙂

My First Video Movie on Technical Writing

November 29, 2010

Xtranormal.com is a website that gives an option to convert your text into a movie, that too free of cost(ok, ok)..You just need to choose your actors(max 2) and type your script, the site will take care of camera shots and recording. I have created a movie on the multiple roles that Technical Writers play in a development environment. Here is the link:

http://www.xtranormal.com/watch/7859593

Note: You can embed the video directly by publishing it in YouTube.

Innovative approaches in Technical Writing

October 21, 2010

I am a regular visitor of cherry leaf technical writing site. I came across an interesting post that talk about innovative approach for a Samsung mobile user manual. Though this approach is a bit costly, potential clients will definitely get benefited. 

I just tried rubbing my brain for the possibilities of innovations in the technical documentation so that the clients will get benefited.

Include videos in the online help:

Imagine you are writing a 10+ steps procedure on how to create a Macro in the MS-Word or a Conditional text in the Adobe FrameMaker. When a procedure goes lengthier or more complex, it’s always a good idea to include a video or a flash file in the online help itself. I really bet you, clients will be accessing your video rather than reading your meticulous 10+ steps procedure.

A picture is worth of thousand words where a video is worth of thousand pictures.

Give a personal touch on your videos:

While including videos, it is good to have your own voice recorded. As you will be the best person to understand and simulate a complex procedure, it is good to have your voice as background than opting for a third-party voice recorder or dubbing. Of course, you are reducing the production cost for your client you know.

Annotate your images:

Preparing Requirement documents for the QA people is one of my regular activities. I use SnagIt for capturing images to support my procedures. I started using SnagIt’s annotation features in the captured images that gave a better understanding the requirement. I got an overwhelming feedback from the QA people. Let me illustrate with an example:

Rather than explaining the above fields one by one, capturing and annotating the image brings better clarity and reach among the audience.

Have you ever read policy documents..?

August 27, 2010

Today morning I was quite busy in exploring an application. I got a phone call from an unknown number. I knew that it will be another credit card or Health Insurance representative’s call.  I always give a polite refusal and thank for their time in calling my number. Of course they are doing their job for their bread and butter.

This time also it was a Health Insurance plan from a Bank where I am paying my annual Insurance amount (ULIP). So no wonder they already had all my personal information (except my T-shirt size) and this guy very cleverly took my attention. Half mindedly I agreed to lend my ears to listen his available plans. But I didn’t agree to go ahead. I just convinced him that I will consider his plans after some months.

Un tired by my response, he asked me to give a look at their website to understand those health plans. I knew that site already, as twice a week I check out their site to see my Equity bonds value has grown or not. 🙂

This time, I clicked onother tab – Health Plans in their site.

After reading all those plans, I stopped for a while. Reason is quite simple. I saw an Insurance act 1938 Section 41 which goes as below:

Section 41 of Insurance Act 1938 states: No person shall allow or offer to allow, either directly or indirectly, as an inducement to any person to take out or renew or continue an insurance in respect of any kind of risk relating to lives or property in India, any rebate of the whole or part of the commission payable or any rebate of the premium shown on the policy, nor shall any person taking out or renewing or continuing a policy accept any rebate, except such rebates as may be allowed in accordance with the published prospectuses or tables of the insurer.

Non-Disclosure:

Section 45 of Insurance Act, 1938 states:

No Policy of life insurance effected before the commencement of this Act shall after the expiry of two years from the date of commencement of this Act and no policy of life insurance effected after the coming into force of this Act shall, after the expiry of two years from the date on which it was effected, be called in question by an insurer on the ground that a statement made in the proposal for insurance or in any report of a medical officer, or referee, or friend of the insured, or in any other document leading to the issue of the policy, was inaccurate or false, unless the insurer shows that such statement was on a material matter or suppressed facts which it was material to disclose and that it was fraudulently made by the policy-holder and that the policy holder knew at the time of making it that the statement was false or that it suppressed facts which it was material to disclose;

Provided that nothing in this section shall prevent the insurer from calling for proof of age at any time if he is entitled to do so, and no policy shall be deemed to be called in question merely because the terms of the policy are adjusted on subsequent proof that the age of the life insured was incorrectly stated in the proposal.

Can anyone understand these sections 41 and 45 on first read and explain it in plain English..?

Section 41 has 101 words in a single paragraph with only one full stop whereas section 45 has 227 words with one full stop.  

  • Why all policy documents (govt, health, Land, bank loans and so on) are not in plain language..?
  • Why does the writer (?) complicate the paragraphs this much..? First of all will he/she understand whatever he writes like this..?

In the UK, there is a separate campaign demanding all policy documents in plain English. I have already mentioned about that website in my previous post.

By the way, I am still trying to rephrase these sections 41 and 45. Anybody interested..? 🙂

My First Prezi on DDLC

July 30, 2010

Vodpod videos no longer available.

My First Prezi on DDLC, posted with vodpod

 

I created my first Prezi on Document Development Life Cycle(DDLC). I feel still there are enough rooms to enhance my prezi. Maybe I will groom much better in my next attempt.  I am curious to know your feedbacks and critics.

Writing Plain English

June 30, 2010

Last two months were hectic as I was running on my toes for our product release – updating the help system, reviewing, testing the product, re-checking the bug fixes… So I was temporarily not been able to update this page (though this site has very limited readership).

OK, coming to the point, recently I came across a website www.plainenglish.co.uk . These people conduct courses on writing plain English. First it sounded a bit funny. But when I read through a PDF from their site, I understood the importance of plain English in day-today life.

Let me give an example: Have you ever read and understood any Insurance, Bank policies or disclaimers especially Subject to Market risk paragraph..?  Those paragraphs will be in such a way that even if you read thousand times, you won’t be able to get the point.

Click here to read some general guides uploaded in their site. It has some special guides on grammar notes, financial glossaries, reports, Forms, websites etc… Worth reading.

Disclaimer: I announce that I was not paid(I wish) to endorse this website and it is purely on my intention to share and spread this useful information.  🙂

Anthropomorphism

March 9, 2010

 

No, I am not going to write about a zoology subject where my post heading may sound like that. When I checked with the WordWeb, anthropomorphism means the representation of objects (especially a god) as having human form or traits. To be more precise, anthropomorphism is attributing human characteristics or behavior to things that are not human.

Generally, technical writers have a great temptation to anthropomorphize to make difficult material easier for the reader to relate to.

An example:

If you click the Save As button, the database will store your data in the specified format.

This is fine. Some level of anthropomorphizing is acceptable. But let us consider the below phrase:

 If you click the Save As button, the database will behave as you requested.

This is a bit over-dosage of anthropomorphism.  🙂

Let us see one more example:

Correct Usage:

The speech recognition software accepts only the following words.

Incorrect Usage:

The speech recognition software is interested only in the following words.

When I came across Microsoft Style guide (MSTP), it says,

Sometimes the user interface or application programming interface of a feature is anthropomorphic. In dealing with wizards, assistants, guides, and other characters built into a program, you must let your professional judgment guide you in deciding how much the documentation should reinforce the anthropomorphism of the feature. But do not use words or phrases that convey intention or desire (such as refuses or wants or is interested in), intellect (thinks, knows, realizes), or emotion (likes).

Also, MSTP lists out some words to watch out for anthropomorphism. Here we go:

The following words may be acceptable in the right context, but they often signal inappropriate anthropomorphism. Some are appropriate only for programmers or information technology professionals. This list is not exhaustive. When in doubt, check your project style sheet.

  • answer
  • demand
  • realize
  • think
  • assume
  • interested in
  • recognize
  • understand
  • aware
  • know
  • refuse
  • want
  • behave
  • like
  • remember
  • decide
  • own
  • see

I believe now you have learned what anthropomorphism is and it’s spelling too (just like me)  🙂

Correlating the things

February 16, 2010

I am sorry for not updating this space for quite some time. I was really busy with little personal stuffs, frequent weekend travels, blah blahs. I really ask sorry to those thousands of this blog readers (just kidding).

I really cherish those moments when I watch television ads with my son (18 months old), who likes ads than cartoons. I really surprise on his skills the way he correlates real things with those comes on television. One fine day, I showed a bottle of Dettol hand washer kept near the wash basin when the same product ad appeared on the virtual screen. After a day, same ad came on the screen (of course they sponsor a lot of programs in different channels). He quickly pulled my hands and showed the same bottle kept aside. I was on a pleasant  surprise. He is able to recognize that product colour, shape and that ad sound of course.

Now as a Technical Writer, I am correlating this incident (anecdote) with the user experience. Rather than writing hundred pages user manual, it’s really a good idea to present them with video tutorials, and captivate demos to explore a particular feature of a product. The User will grasp the new things easily by these kinds of visuals than reading hundreds of pages. Of course, it’s human brain’s tendency to correlate things visually than reading or learning by themselves.

Importing Word doc into FrameMaker

January 20, 2010

 

Usually people prefer to import a word document than directly writing (typing) on a FrameMaker page. While importing the word document, the tables in the word document would not get imported properly in the FM file. Here is the solution:

  1. Convert the Word doc into RTF format
  2. Open the RTF doc directly in the FrameMaker
  3. Copy the tables from this temporary FM document into the Original book

This is the solution that http://allexperts.com provides for this issue. I haven’t checked this as I am yet to install the FM .  So I would be happy if you try it out and let me know in the comment section.  🙂


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