Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Your Company Needs a Style Guide

Does it look like every document that leaves your company came from a different source? Without a style guide, it's almost impossible to maintain consistency in your documentation.

Your company needs a style guide no matter what its side. A style guide defines how to construct documents, what fonts to use and their size, how to use the company logo, where the company logo is placed on the page, and so much more. Style guides will solve many of your company's problems and help documentation appear as if the same person is creating it every time.

For more information on having your company style guide developed, visit my technical writing portfolio.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Font Rules

Fonts should serve your reader, not decorate the main text. If you want to use decorative text, save it for the headers.

There is a simple rule for fonts. If it's going to be printed, use a serif font. A serif is a smaller line used to finish the main stroke of a letter. They might be two horizontal lines at the base of an A, or a rounded off end of an r. They make reading printed text easier on the eyes. Use them when your document will be printed on paper.

San serif fonts are simpler fonts without these extra lines. Computer monitors don't reproduce serif fonts clearly, so if your document is for electronic use, use san serif letters.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Style Writer: Software that Helps Improve Your Writing

I think it's easy for even the best of writers to get lazy. Fortunately, a software program works hard when your mind is on multiple subjects as you sit at your keyboard.

If you write like me, you consider your next several thoughts as you write. This poses dangers to any one's writing. As I sat in my technical editing class, I knew there had to be software that keeps hyper thinking authors in check. I researched the issue, and I discovered StyleWriter.

StyleWriter works as a stand alone product or you can integrate it with Microsoft Word, which is a nice feature. It automatically updates your document as you edit the document in StyleWriter.

StyleWriter uses grammar rules, style guides, and professional advice to remove bad parts of your writing. The bottom of the StyleWriter screen displays three different grades to your writing: style, sentence length, and active voice. Rarely do I turn in a document that doesn't receive an excellent grade in all three ratings.

StyleWriter is easy to use. In Word, simply type your document and then click the StyleWriter button (automatically added when you install the software). The program opens and gives you a grade. StyleWriter looks for the first instance of questionable writing, and suggests how to improve it. Rarely does it suggest something I disagree with, but it does happen.

Another great feature of StyleWriter is Edit. Click Edit, and you are transferred into your Word document where you can make major changes. Click Resume, and StyleWriter regrades the document with your recent changes.

I began using StyleWriter in 2006. Both companies I have written for now use StyleWriter. Whether you are a technical writer, business writer, author, or a student, StyleWriter takes your writing to the next level.

Friday, December 19, 2008

What Technical Writers Do

Sometime during my college graduation, my grandmother looked at the list of graduates in the graduation program and found my name under the list of professional writers receiving their bachelors degree. "He went to school to become a writer? What's he going to do with that?" She asked my dad as if suddenly she wished she was some place else. I saw this developing from the time I realized my degree was named BS of professional writing.

Once the ceremony was over, I explained to grandma what a technical writer does. I think she has a lot more respect for my degree.

Technical writers provide a variety of services. We are computer programmers, Web designers, computer help authors, desktop publishers, technical manual writers, and I could go on and on. Our basic job is to take complex thoughts and present them in organized and simplified instructive documents. Now you know what a technical writer is, just think of all the ways that a technical writer has helped you out.

Since I graduated from college, I have designed advertisements, trade show brochures, computer help systems, Web sites, software demonstration CDs, technical white papers, knowledge base articles, a corporate style guide, and software design kit (SDK). As you can see, technical writers possess a variety of skills that are essential to corporations.

Technical writers often are full-time employees, and we provide freelance services. I do both.

I hope this offers insight to what it is that technical writers do.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Outsourcing Your Web Site to India?

It's an exciting time for India as they become an economic world power. Many Americans rely on India for Web authoring services, but there are many drawbacks when you export the work to India.

For your Web site to be effective, communication should be your top priority. Poorly written text on Web sites often push customers away, which is the chance you take when someone from outside the United States writes your Web content. A person writing in India may speak English, but they speak it in a different dialect than Americans use. This is true in a comparison of the English and Americans as well. This change in regional dialect will transfer to your Web site. Readers of your Web site will notice.

Hiring a technical writer for to write your Web content provides solid text that will effectively serve your products. Many technical writers train and excel in Web design. Your customers will notice the difference. Do you want to take that chance?