We live in interesting times

Although our blog is primarily about technical communication, Brexit is such a seismic event that it’s likely to affect technical writing companies and Technical Authors, amongst others, in the upcoming months and years. From a trading perspective, 2016 has, so far, been a very good year for us. However, we are allocating some time to prepare for whatever Brexit might throw at us in future years.

We’ve now identified two countries in the EU where we can establish a second sister company in short order, and various staff members are looking into obtaining a second passport (British, Irish or Spanish, depending on their personal circumstances). Depending on what the lawyers advise, it is likely the sister company would have the same shareholders and directors, but be a separate legal entity. In many ways, Cherryleaf could have its base anywhere in Europe. However, the UK is home, and we hope it can remain that.

Minimising the impact of Brexit on our clients in mainland Europe

We’d like to reassure Cherryleaf’s customers in mainland Europe and Ireland that we aim to minimise the impact on them as a result of UK’s decision to leave to the EU. The UK will remain in the EU for at least two years, and there should be little effect if the UK is able to negotiate access to the EU’s single market.

We are also looking at establishing a second company in either Ireland or a country in mainland Europe, so that we retain our legal and operating presence within the EU, should that not be the case.

Awards

The Spring 2015 edition of Communicator magazine and its special supplement on the Value of Technical Communication was entered in both the IoIC (Institute of Internal Communications) Awards in 2015 and the APEX Awards in 2016. One of Ellis’ articles (“Creating videos: tips and tricks”) was part of that issue.

We’ve just learnt this issue has won an APEX Grand Award. This is the first time Communicator has won a Grand Award. It has also won an IoIC Award of Excellence in 2015.

IOIC logo ISTC Spring 2015APEX Awards 2016

From http://apexawards.com/apex2016grandawardcomments.htm:

“This clean, appealing layout offers attractive spreads, a crisp, legible type schedule, with effective use of callouts, sidebars and captions. Content is equally exceptional, with fully vetted, well written articles on a wide range of professional topics. And the supplement on the value of technical communication is an effective ‘selling tool’ for managements and other key audiences. This magazine is precisely the kind of first rate publication you’d expect from a professional association of scientific and technical communicators.”

XML isn’t the only way to semantic content

I’ve been on the road speaking at a conference this week, and I’ve been listening to a lot of presentations on technical communication. Many of these were on the importance of having structured, semantic content when you are dealing with large amounts of content that needs to be translated into different languages and published in many different ways. All of these presentations put forward XML-based systems as the solution.

However, XML isn’t the only method for having semantic content. For example, AsciiDoc supports attributes, which can be used to add a semantic descriptions to headings, paragraphs and whole documents. You can use conditions in RoboHelp and Flare to categorise content. You can also store content in a database.

It’s sometimes useful to remember that XML isn’t the only way to semantic content.

 

Cherryleaf’s technical writing online training course has been re-accredited by the ISTC

Cherryleaf’s technical author basic/induction training course has been accredited by the Institute of Scientific and Technical Communicators since its launch. This accreditation has to be renewed every few years, which involves having the course is re-assessed by the ISTC’s accreditors. Earlier this year, we submitted the course for renewed accreditation, and we’ve recently received an email informing us the course has been approved again by the ISTC.

Americanisms and Britishisms

There are user documentation projects where we are asked to write in American English instead of British English, and generally this is a pretty straightforward exercise for us. However, when I speak at conferences in the USA, delegates sometimes ask me afterwards what I meant by a particular expression. For example, I was recently asked what I meant by “round the houses” and “cheesed off“.

There are a large number of subtle differences between the two versions of English, which has led to a number of very interesting blogs on this subject. In particular, Dr. Lynne Murphy’s Separated by a common language and Professor Ben Yagoda’s Not One-Off Britishisms blogs provide a fascinating insight into how words and expressions gain popularity. The Language Log is another blog worth reading.

If the move to a more conversational approach to technical writing grows in popularity, we may see these differences becoming a bigger factor in localis(z)ing to American or British English.

Technical writing as public service – Video

Here is a link to a recording of an interesting presentation from Britta Gustafson on aspects of working on documentation in the US Government.

“What if U.S. federal agencies decided to reuse and contribute to open source software projects built by other agencies, since agencies often have similar technology problems to solve? And what if they hired technical writers with open source community experience to write documentation for these projects? That would be pretty cool. Also, that’s my work.”

Technical writing as public service: working on open source in government

 

Update: The Internet of Things – creating a digital user guide to attach to a door

Following on from our post The Internet of Things – creating a user guide for a fridge door, we came across other ways to create e-ink digital user guides that could be attached to the door of meeting rooms, providing information on room bookings, using the equipment in the room etc.

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