After many years of blogging, and consistent with my desire to move toward retirement, we have ended the Insights blog. Thanks to Doug Bedell for his years of blog support.

George Saunders, a Writing Engineer

Posted on February 28, 2013
Filed Under Communication, The Writing Life | Leave a Comment

Now here’s a writer I want to get to know better. George Saunders has progressed from technical writing to the pages of The New Yorker and, now, his novel, Tenth of December, is No. 3, on The New York Times best seller list for fiction. Not bad for plugging away at saying well what you need to say, either for co-workers or the public.

imgresSaunders spoke recently at William & Mary College. A press release for that event quoted Junot Diaz, a Pulitzer Prize winner for fiction, as saying of him, “There’s no one who has a better eye for the absurd and dehumanizing parameters of our current culture of capital.”

Now, did you ever think that all the quests for approval, after requisite revisions, that technical writers go through, one of them would rise to such an estate – “a better eye for the absurd and dehumanizing parameters” of our times? Just shows where conscientious diligence, and talent, can lead. You don’t want to be thinking absurdity as you walk, say, through a nuclear power plant. But if diligence in a workplace setting leads to skills and insights that spill into best-seller fame, so much the better.
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State-of-the-Art Technical Formatting (When You’re Not Stuffed Into Protective Gear)

Posted on February 20, 2013
Filed Under Technology, The Writing Life | Leave a Comment

slide-1-638Here’s an interesting slide presentation by an Adobe Systems Inc. manager, Saibal Bhaattacharjee, on “Key Trends in Technical Communication.” It was presented at the recent MEGAComm annual conference.

In a way, calling attention to the latest tech writing techniques shows how broadminded Encore is. That’s because Dennis Owen, our principal, works primarily on procedures for nuclear power plants, where new technologies don’t take hold nearly so fast as elsewhere. And that’s fully understandable.

“You can’t even get a wireless signal for your iPad in most parts of a (nuclear) plant,” Dennis notes. “Indeed, plants don’t even want wireless devices because some plant equipment is sensitive to RF. And sometimes when you are in two layers of protective clothing and wearing a respirator while crawling around pipes and equipment, a paper procedure stuffed into you pocket is hard to beat.” Formatting for conditions, you might say.
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An Online Tech Writing Hangout

Posted on February 13, 2013
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Here’s a promising site for technical writers to hang out on and perhaps enhance their skills – TechWhirl, at its Technical Writing tab. Its headings include Education Center, Upcoming Events, Industry News and Tech Writer Today Articles. There are also links to Content Management Industry, Technical Writing, Content Management Systems and Content Production.

TechWhirl looks like a site for keeping current with what’s going on in the technical writing and content management world. – Doug Bedell

You Can’t Say Much With the Most Used Words

Posted on February 4, 2013
Filed Under Communication, The Writing Life | Leave a Comment

Technical writers are always being urged to take the time to be clearly understood. And that’s a noble aim. But if it should mean writing only in the most commonly used words, the first thousand of them, no more, it probably can’t be done. “Thousand,” itself, is not one of the “ten hundred most common words.” How do we know that, what kind of quirky excursion have we been on this time?

xkcdWell, we came upon the Up-Goer Five Text Editor. notes that it’s been written by Theo Sanderson, a geneticist, after a comic strip named to describe the Saturn V rocket (“rocket” isn’t one of the ten-hundred words either). Having come upon the free editor, bloggers Chris Rowan and Anne Jefferson set up a Tumblr blogger page called Ten Hundred Words of Science. advises that “they’re asking scientists to describe what they do for a living using Sanderson’s text editor. The results are thought provoking, interesting and quite often humorous.”

So give it a try yourself. The value of your effort will likely be greater appreciation for the bundling of our most common words – and how children learn by using them. We gave it a try and came up with an impromptu thumbnail essay on spartan expression:

“Well, now, here we’re going to try something that will be hard for most of you – in fact, not possible.
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