Let's Tech Communicate

March 2018

Grant Mackenzie

Forget Alexa, Bixby, Cortana, Google and Siri. The better class of technical communicator can now Ask Mercedes. This is a form of chatbot. This month we discover that chatbots are the new thing in technical documentation and then find out that, actually, they are not the new thing as they’re too stupid. Clever TCs use Emotion Amplifiers in their writing. The founding fathers forgot to do this when writing the Declaration of Independence and this could explain The Rise and Fall of the English Sentence. Please feel free to compare the various Words of the Year, one of which references St Jacinda. Speaking of the government, the govt.nz style guide has been released. Lastly, I give you predictions for technical communication in 2018. I predict a call for yea, nay and thou to return to common usage. Plus, in 2018 you simply must stop saying simply.

Are chatbots the new thing in technical communication?

That well-known hotbed of technical communication, the automotive web site TheDrive avers that the Ask Mercedes app is the digital owner’s manual that you can’t lose. The concept is futuristic, except that it is available right now. Petrol heads with an affinity for AR will delight in the news that Augmented Reality is heading to Porsche dealers in 2018.

Dima Ilieva and Ekaterina Mitova developed a chatbot for SAP documentation and offer an engaging and persuasive article in Are chatbots the new thing in technical documentation? Mark Baker from Every Page is Page One takes the contrary view. He believes Chatbots are stupid.

Put your writing where your mouth is

In her plain language webinar series, Shelly Davies is has been urging us to write the way we speak. So Birgitta Geischberg’s article Emotion amplifiers really touched a nerve. Birgitta says “The idea of incorporating elements of everyday communication when writing instructions is based on the observation of interpersonal communication. People, who are emotionally connected to what they want to convey, appear more authentic and leave a greater impression with the reader. Their emotion is transferred to the reader.”

Julie Sedivy references the 71 word first sentence of the US Declaration of Independence when charting The Rise and Fall of the English Sentence. This is a must-read for anyone interested in linguistic evolution. Here’s a snippet: “… even a cosmopolitan globe-straddling language like English contains within it an esoteric register whose linguistic opacity has the effect of repelling outsiders and reinforcing the insularity of its community.” Terrific writing.

Alternative words

Fake News , Kwaussie, Youthquake , Complicit and Covfefe. These are all winners of Word of the Year depending on whom you believe. These winners were mostly chosen by the purveyors of dictionaries. New words added to the Oxford English Dictionary include Tom Swiftly. What about Fetch and Levidrome?

The govt.nz style guide has been released. This is not fake news.

Trendy TCs

Tom Johnson of I’d Rather Be Writing has listed What technical writing trends will we see in 2018. Ellis Pratt (still his real name) of the Cherryleaf blog has outlined the Trends in Technical Communication in 2018 and beyond. Remarkably, it includes blockchain, the technology behind BitCoin.

The Oxford Dictionaries blog yearns for the return of thou, yea and nay. Apparently this will fix issues with restaurant waiters, second person singular and plural differentiation as well as universal negatives and positives. Of course it will.

Simply irrefutable

Did you know that if you search for the word simply in developer documentation in GitHub you return 93 million hits? Jim Fisher from Pusher knows. He wants the word banned from technical communication and explains why here. His presentation slides are quite good too.

Happy reading!

Grant Mackenzie

Grant is a Board member of TechCommNZ