Following on from our post Cutting and pasting content into Word documents – Is there a better way?, we’ve been looking at how organisations could use Markdown to create reports and proposals more quickly and consistently.
The objective was to:
- Create something simple for non-technical people to use.
- Have a collection of re-usable chunks of content that could be embedded into the document (no more cutting and pasting). If a chunk needed to be changed, then the documents where it is embedded would reflect that change automatically.
- Be able to generate the completed report as a .docx (Microsoft Word) file.
- Separate the content from the “look and feel”.
- Enable different people to work on different sections of the document simultaneously.
- Store the content in an open format, so there was potential to use some of the content in other places (such as on a website).
An article Ellis wrote for the ISTC’s Communicator journal has been uploaded to the ISTC’s website. It’s called Can we quit QWERTY?, and it is about our trials and tribulations in transcribing training videos.
Writing in the business world can be difficult. We have to write Web pages, proposals, emails, policies and procedures and, perhaps, adverts. It can be hard to get going, and create something that’s clear and to the point. Here are some tips to help you get over these difficulties.
It’s not your fault
Let’s start by saying it’s not your fault if you find business writing difficult, because most of us are not taught how to do it at school. At school, we learn how to write stories and how to argue a case. That usually involves building to a big conclusion at the end.
In business, mostly we have to write to:
- instruct, or
Those are different forms of writing.
“Everyone is taught to write at school, so surely everyone can write in business?”
Although the quotation above would seem to make sense, the reality is that many people find it hard to write in a business context. They struggle to write clearly, and it can take them ages to produce a piece of content.
It’s not their fault. What we’re taught at school is how to write narratives, that is stories or articles. We’re also taught to argue a case – to use rhetoric to build to a conclusion. We’re taught writing to persuade and writing to entertain.
In the world of business, we often need different forms of writing. We’re often writing to inform or writing to instruct.
In these situations, people want to know what they should and shouldn’t be doing, and get on with their jobs. They want the important information at the beginning, rather than the end. They want to scan and hunt for the information relevant to them, rather than always having to read everything from beginning to end.
Many people haven’t been taught how to write to inform or to instruct, and that’s why many people find business writing so difficult.
Cherryleaf’s Ellis Pratt will be speaking at the Institute of Directors’ June 2015 Members Masterclass on “The written word – creating effective content”.
The written word is one of the key ways we communicate with others. Whether we’re telling or selling, it’s important we get our message across. Unfortunately, many people find writing time consuming, and it can often be difficult to get started on a new document.
In this session, we’ll look at some of the most effective techniques for creating the types of content created in today’s business world. You’ll discover some of the approaches used by professional technical communicators, copywriters and report writers.
Some of the issues we’ll look at include:
- Clarity and persuasiveness
- Getting started and organising your thoughts
- How to structure documents
- Getting to the point and being concise
This session is ideal for managers, engineers and other professionals interested in effective approaches to communicating more clearly and effectively in writing.
The IoD invites IoD Members and non-members to share their expertise and knowledge with other members. It will be held at 116 Pall Mall, London, on the 2nd June (18:00 – 21:00).
▪ The written word – creating effective content.
You’ll find a new case study on the Cherryleaf website, regarding a project we carried out for Affidea.
Affidea Group BV is a company that offers premium diagnostic imaging, cancer detection and cancer treatment services. It focuses on delivering prompt, thorough diagnoses and high quality treatments by working only with state-of-the-art technology and experienced medical professionals.
Affidea operates a network of Diagnostic and Cancer Treatment Centres in 14 countries across Europe. The company employs over 3,000 professionals, of which more than 750 are medical doctors.
Affidea required us to produce a so called “Blue Book” of company operations. Some of the material for the Blue Book already existed and had been documented; other material had not been documented. The existing material had been written by non-native English speakers and/or non technical authors, because of this there was a lack of consistency to the existing documentation. The information required for the new material was largely not documented anywhere and subject matter experts (SMEs) were based throughout Europe.
The project involved re-designing/writing existing content, interviewing SMEs in order to get the information required for new content, putting together new content and finally assembling all the information into the Blue Book.
For the full case study, see:
We’re looking for someone to take our Technical Author induction online training course, free of charge, in exchange for doing something that will help us develop future versions of the course.
This course was one of the first we developed, and, at that time, we didn’t use formal scripts in the creation process. In the next 18 months, we’re planning to re-record the course videos and revise some (approximately 5-10%) of the content. Having a script for the course will help.
So, in exchange for taking the course for free, we’d like that person to write a transcription for us of what the presenter is saying (which you’ll send to us). The document can be in .txt or Word format. You’ll benefit from having taken this couse, and having taken great notes for yourself as well!
Contact us if you’re interested in doing this.
UPDATE: We’ve found someone. Thanks to everyone who replied.
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.