Advanced technical writing techniques training: Next classroom course (and potential online course)

Do let us know if you’d be interested in us scheduling another public course for our Trends in Technical Communication – Advanced technical writing techniques course. We need just a couple more people for us to schedule a course date for June. Do let us know if you’d be interested in attending this course.

Interested in an online version of the course?

For writers based outside of the UK, we’re also considering offering this course in a “live and online” format over the Web. Using Google+ Hangouts, the course would be spread over a number of days, rather than delivered as a full day’s worth of training. The price of the course would be the same. The first course would be limited to just 5 or 6 delegates. Do let us know if you’d be interested in attending this course.

About the course

In this course, you’ll find out how Technical Authors in leading companies are now applying techniques from other disciplines (such as psychology, copywriting, usability and elearning) into the information they create.

Using examples of Help pages from a number of applications (including from vendors such as Apple, Facebook, Google, HTC and Mozilla), you’ll learn how to spot where these techniques have been used, and you’ll have the opportunity to practise these in the workshop.

Do let us know if you’d be interested in attending this course.

Announcement: April date for the Advanced Technical Writing Techniques course

You’ll find we’ve added a new training course date on our Web site for our Trends in Technical Communication Workshop – Advanced Technical Writing Techniques.

It will be held on Monday 22th April.
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Extra date for Trends in Technical Communication Workshop – Advanced Technical Writing Techniques

You’ll find we’ve added a new training course date on our Web site for our Trends in Technical Communication Workshop – Advanced Technical Writing Techniques.

It will be held on Monday 25th February.

The January course sold out within ten days, so it’s wise to book early.

If you’ve read the technical writing blogs and magazines, you’ll have noticed a growing interest in new approaches to technical communication – asking whether all of the tried-and-tested writing methods from past decades still make sense today.

In this course, you’ll find out how Technical Authors in leading companies are now applying techniques from other disciplines (such as psychology, copywriting, usability and elearning) into the information they create. The course has been designed to be independent of any particular authoring tool, and to work in both a structured and unstructured authoring environment.
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The future of technical documentation is more about psychology than technology

In the quest to offer better forms of user assistance, most experts in the technical communications profession propose technological solutions: using XML, intelligent and adaptive content etc. to present essentially the same type of guidance as has been provided for the past 20 years.

We believe there has been a change in the relationship between people and technology, and there needs to be a corresponding change in the relationship between people and the user documentation.

In the past, a lot of technology was unfamiliar, idiosyncratic, expensive and complex; users often became anxious when they used a product. As technology has become part of everyone’s daily lives (particularly Web and mobile applications), people’s relationship with a great deal of technology has changed.

As a consequence, for some types of products and for some types of documents, the traditional approach for technical writing is no longer appropriate.

This means Technical Authors need a better understanding of this relationship – the psychology of users – and understand how they can relate and communicate to users in context.

We are not suggesting that the traditional approach to technical writing should go away completely. We’re also not arguing against technology such as XML and DITA – these are vehicles for delivering content. We’ll still be writing user documentation for scientific equipment and financial systems in the traditional way, as these types of products fit the traditional model. However, even the documentation for these types of products can benefit from the inclusion of some psychological techniques.

Web sites such as voiceandtone.com indicate some of the changes that we are likely to see in technical documentation, but we disagree with some of the approaches suggested on this site for some types of documents, and we feel this site only scratches the surface.

There is evidence from randomised control trials that these new approaches work, although we recommend you carry out your own testing to double check it works for your users.

So having come to be belief that Technical Authors need to incorporate some new techniques into their documentation, what should happen next? One approach is to engage Cherryleaf to provide advice or write documents. In addition, you’re able to discover these techniques through our new advanced technical writing training course. However, the starting point is to recognize the change in the relationship between users and many products, and to recognize the need to change the approach to technical writing so that it’s appropriate to the situation.

The question is, do you agree?

Webinar  21 November 2012 –  Writing policies and procedures: The most common issues, and how to fix them

We will be hosting a free 60 minute webinar called “Writing policies and procedures: The most common issues, and how to fix them” on Wednesday 21st November.

Registration is now open - Register Here

Places are limited.

German Manager discovers the secret to writing product information in English

Sometimes, we are asked by German clients to improve the English text in their product information sheets. Although their staff speak and write excellent English, they recognise their marketing copy can appear a little stilted, “wordy” and unclear. The sentences may be grammatically correct, but no native-English speaker would ever write them in that way.

So, here are a few tips for German native speakers who need to write marketing copy in English:

  1. Take care when translating Möglichkeit(en)/möglich.  Often, this is translated as “possible”, when a native English speaker might say “options”, “available”, “capabilities”, “optional”, “the ability to” or “able to”.
  2. “Information” is always singular. There is no such word as “informations”.
  3. Don’t use “thus” or “hence” in marketing documents. They are fine for scientific papers, but not in marketing documents or Web sites. You could use “this means” instead.
  4. Keep your sentences short, so they are clearer to the reader. Subordinate and relative clauses are used enthusiastically in German, but in English they can make a sentence appear unnaturally long.  In each sentence, it’s best to be clear what is the subject, direct object, indirect object and verb. Think Cluedo – ask yourself, who is “the murderer”? Who is “the victim”? What was “the weapon”?
  5. Watch out for pseudo-anglicisms (Denglisch) and “false friends”. For example, “Labor” in German is not the same thing as “labor” in English.
  6. Using “a” or “an” depends on whether the next word sounds like it begins with a vowel. For example, “an F.E.B.” and “a unique”.
  7. Remember even native English speakers use specialists to write their marketing copy.

Here is Henning Wehn, German comedy ambassador to the United Kingdom, providing some examples:

Any more suggestions?

Writing as a career in IT

Here are the slides from our presentation to Year 10 children at The Matthew Arnold School in Staines-upon-Thames on writing as a career in IT. We looked at the different writing postions in companies, such as Apple, and then looked at the role of the Technical Author/Writer. The class had to write an instruction manual for a new eco-messaging product (aka a typewriter).

Is re-using content a good or a bad thing to do?

Today’s BBC News Web site has a piece on Ofsted re-using sentences in more than one school inspection report:

An investigation has begun into claims that Ofsted approved “cut and paste” inspection reports using identical sentences and phrases…both reports say: “Some teachers do not plan learning for pupils at their different levels of ability and marking is not leading to improvement.”
Both reports make comments about the low attainment of pupils in reading, writing and maths which vary by just a few words.

‘Cut and paste’ Ofsted report claims

Clearly it’s wrong if if a report has been put together with little thought, or if it contains information that is incorrect, irrelevant or inappropriate.

However, if the information the writer wants to convey has been said before, surely having access to a collection of re-usable sentences is a good thing?