It is a challenge for a company when virtual team members are thousands of miles apart, so to ensure the consistency and quality of any product or deliverable, it is imperative that teams are able to communicate throughout a project – especially when teams include non-employees.
In her article, Saving Money with Virtual Teams and Working at a Distance Without Travel, Barbara Stuhlemmer, identifies some of the tools she has used to bring contractors, writers, and clients on projects together, including tools for:
She provides insight on how various tools in each of these categories can help in managing project communications.
Read Saving Money with Virtual Teams and Working at a Distance Without Travel and then leave a comment here with your thoughts. Are you using some of these tools in your company? Have you found others that have been effective for you in managing virtual teams?
Over the years, technical writers have found that their job duties, responsibilities, and their employers’ expectations have expanded greatly beyond the writing process. That is a big part of the reason why the Society for Technical Communication (STC), historically the professional organization for technical writers, sought to re-classify technical writers as technical communicators a few years ago.
The article Technical Writers are Communicators provides a look at how technical writers have evolved since the emergence of the PC and will continue to evolve as technologies and needs change. Not only has technology changed, but work processes have changed along with it.
Evolution for technical writers continues in the professional workplace, even since this article was originally published. Change seems to continue to occur at near the speed of light.
Read Technical Writers are Communicators and then leave a comment here with your thoughts. As a technical writer/technical communicator/information design professional, how have you had to adapt over the years? What further changes have you seen since the article was published?
As any former technical communications student can tell you, in the hands of the wrong professor, technical writing subjects can seem dry, abstract, and even boring at times. That’s why this recent article on The Western Front drew our interest. The article features English professor Michael Bell, and his teaching methodology for his English 302 class, Introduction to Technical and Professional Writing.
Bell has his students write instructions and rules for a game they create. He points out that “If a student is able to write a set of rules for a game, they’ll know how to write a professional document.” Makes sense to us. The benefits of such a teaching method include:
- Classmates get to play the game and then give feedback on how easy it was to interact with the game manual
- By working with a game, students are more inclined to not only have fun, but to make sure it works as described
- Because games are something tangible students can readily relate to in the real world, class concepts don’t seem so abstract
- It allows students to focus on a single project while still coming away with the principles and concepts of the course
Bell found that by allowing students to learn old concepts in a new way, they cared more about the work they did instead of viewing it as just another assignment. When students care about – and can feel a passion for – what they are doing, the result can only be positive. Don’t you agree?
What are your thoughts on Bell’s teaching method? As a teacher or student of technical communications subjects, have you experienced similar methodologies or other approaches you felt were very effective? Please leave a comment, we’d love to hear your thoughts.
It’s not uncommon – at some point their careers – for technical writers to either want to or be asked to help with the marketing department’s communications needs. Whether it’s a permanent move or only temporary, such a change can seem a bit frightening for tech writers with little to no marketing background. But is it really that big of a leap to make the change? And can the willingness to be flexible help strengthen your career outlook?
In her article, Making the Transition from Techcom to Marcom, Christy Simard looks at the desirable traits technical writers have that can be put to good use in marketing, at the similarities between the two career paths and at managing both a permanent changeover and accepting marketing assignments within a documentation group to enhance its value.
Read: Making the Transition from Techcom to Marcom and then leave a comment below with your thoughts on transitioning from techcom to marcom, especially if you’ve had first-hand experience in doing so.
Related topic: Making the Transition from Technical Writer to Manager
(If you’re getting paid to write, you may want to take this blog post with a grain of salt. You need to do what your client tells you to do. But if you think another approach would be better, it can’t hurt to speak up and let the client know.)
If you’ve ever tried to do something just for the sake of getting good feedback, you know that’s not the best decision. Even if you think you’re doing something that an audience will like, if YOU are trying to be liked, then you need to stop for a minute to reevaluate your goals.
Going door to door is a much more effective way of selling than the written word – or at least it would seem that way. If you’re talking directly to a customer, you can see what they respond to, what they don’t respond to, and you can, well, get in their face about what you have to say.
Making your sales writing effective
Here’s what you need to do with your writing to make it a personal ‘call’ to the audience:
At some point, you’re going to be assigned a complicated piece. You’ll need to explain something challenging to an audience that may not have a background in the topic. Heck, you might not have a background in the topic, but no one needs to know that.
To create an effective piece of writing that describes a complicated idea in simple terms, start breaking it down for yourself like a journalist would.
Who? What? Where? When? Why? How?
If your research answers these questions, then you can begin to write with these key pieces of information in mind.
One of the first lessons an online writer learns is to write differently than you did in college. When you get that first assignment, you find out that those long and complex sentences aren’t the right fit for the Web audience. You need to use your personality and your voice to connect with readers. But what the heck does this even mean?
Finding your voice isn’t necessarily something they teach in school. This is why you often see a lot of blogs that start out slow and then become better with time. Conversely, you also see a number of blogs online that start out great and then the writer can’t keep the energy up – because it’s not his or her own energy. It’s a persona.
Let’s face it. Many people avoid writing because there are so many rules. They’d rather let someone else handle the logistics of grammar and punctuation because they can’t be bothered to learn.
But do you really need to follow all the rules?
Imagine what would happen if you were to go to a website to read about a company. If the writer were to follow all the rules of writing, the copy would be technically terrific, however, would the audience agree?
No matter how excited you’ve been about the ideas you have for your business or the topic you’ve been writing about, at some point, you’re going to get bored. While you might not be bored with the overall idea, it can become tiresome to write about the same thing, day after day, month after month.
And your readers will realize it.