Let's Tech Communicate

September 2017

Grant Mackenzie

This month we tackle the serious business of fluff, free photography, zombies, cockroaches, passive aggressive punctuation, the hysteria over hyphens, and, finally, the differences between technical communicators and technical writers are defined. Let’s do this.

Emma Harding is now our ex-president (please note hyphenation). One of her final acts of kindness to me was to pass on a link from The Economist magazine. Hysteria over hyphens gleefully quotes the style manual of the esteemed Oxford University Press. "If you take hyphens seriously you will surely go mad." The Economist’s own style book spends eight pages on this punctuation mark. With examples like third world war vs third-world war and little-used car vs little used car you can see that hyphens make a difference.

BrightTALK also makes a difference. It’s a wonderful resource. Once you sign up you will receive weekly emails with links to high quality recordings of webinars by contributors such as the three standouts at our most recent conference. Doug Kim, Scott Abel, and Shelly Davies are all there. Try Shelly’s Passive Aggressive Punctuation (login required). Once you’ve created your login you can search for Doug and Scott’s presentations.

Speaking of creating logins, do you need extraordinarily high quality, high resolution photographs but don’t have a budget? For the price of creating a login you can try Unsplash.com. The photographs really are free to use, even for commercial use without attribution. Do your housekeeping and check their licence rules before using them.

It is a little-known fact that I have a professional interest in housekeeping. Not doing it. Just writing about it. The most-quoted quip from my first book was "there is nothing so arousing to a married woman as the sound of her own husband vacuuming the floor." So when I came across Fluff – the eternal challenge by Leah Guren, I had to read it. Removing the fluff from our writing makes our work easier to read and understand. Leah identifies the fluff and explains how to suck it up and blow it out. A great read.

A couple of months ago, Luke had a link to Tech Writer Today, otherwise known as TechWhirl, the magazine for technical writers and technical communicators. Yes, they know the difference and can define technical writing as well as defining technical communication. Who knew?

The real reason I raise TechWhirl is that, until reading Dan Goldstein’s piece linking Zombies, Cockroaches and Technical Writers, I had failed to recognise the obvious and clear links between the three species.

Grant Mackenzie

Are you a keen follower of Let's Tech Communicate? Maybe you'd like to be a contributor! Luke Pivac, our main contributor since he established the column in 2014, is stepping down for a well-earned break. We're looking for someone to join the LTC team, to contribute about 6 columns per year. Email comms@techcomm.nz if you're interested in getting involved.