This month’s meeting welcomed a variety of people: senior writers, including two who recently relocated to Vancouver; a recent graduate; and a student intern making a career change to technical writing. All shared their experiences and contributed different perspectives to the discussion.
The “the.” Someone asked for help with a debate she’s having at work. “Do you include the ‘the’?” Her engineer colleagues are pushing for terse steps such as “Remove part from box.” The writer prefers “Remove the part from the box” but hasn’t found any guidelines in standard reference sources to back her up. Writers love to discuss such controversies and she soon had several ideas to defend her position. Summary: using “the” is simply clearer. We aim for conciseness, but omitting too many words can impede the user. Readers who are skimming quickly, or whose first language is not English, appreciate the additional clues to help them grasp the meaning. It also makes the text easier to translate, especially with machine translation.
On the other hand, experienced technical users might prefer the shorter version. As always, writers need to understand their audience and decide what works best.
Ethics. The STC Technical Editing SIG will host a webinar on March 22 about ethics in technical communication. We agreed that this would make a good topic for discussion at the next Tech Comm Café.
Event ideas. A chapter board member asked for ideas for future webinars and workshops. Suggestions included: getting started in single-sourcing; how artificial intelligence affects documentation; creating documentation for the internet of things; using WordPress; and demonstrating the value of technical writers. (Comments? Other ideas? Tell us.) We also discussed the pros and cons of online Tech Comm Café meetings and agreed that online meetings are convenient but we also enjoy the social connections at face-to-face gatherings.
Internships. We asked the intern in attendance what it’s like to work at an unpaid, short-term, real-world job for academic credit toward a technical communication certificate. The work has “confirmed that she picked the right career to change to, combining her love of teaching, learning, and writing.” It will also add relevant experience to her résumé and pay off in job satisfaction and better pay.
Volunteering. The chapter currently has several opportunities for volunteers, from short one-time tasks to year-long commitments. Whether you’re a student, new in town, an experienced writer, or changing to a new career, it’s a great way to network with the technical writing community.
The Tech Comm Café provides networking opportunities, job leads, answers to work-related dilemmas, and a burst of professional energy to keep you motivated. We discuss technical writing tools and techniques, career planning, portfolios, and anything else related to working as a technical communicator.
We welcome anyone who’s interested in technical communication — contractor, in-house, student, long-time tech writer, STC member, non-member, career-changer, or recruiter. We hope to see you at the next meeting!
Next Vancouver-area Tech Comm Café: Wednesday, April 11, 2018
Please RSVP if you’d like to join us.
Time: 6:30–8:00 pm Pacific Time
Location: Allegro Café, Whole Foods Market, 510 West 8th Avenue at Cambie, Vancouver. The Allegro is the smaller coffee bar on the mezzanine level, with entrance on the Cambie Street side (not the restaurant downstairs in the main store area). Close to Broadway-City Hall Skytrain (Canada Line) and Broadway buses; pay parking on the street or in the Whole Foods underground parkade, entrance on West 8th Ave.
Heather Sommerville is a senior technical writer and editor with over 20 years of experience delivering clear, concise writing for business and technical audiences. She is an STC Associate Fellow and has served in many volunteer positions with the STC Canada West Coast chapter.