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Dear Viv
2005, Q4 (July 03, 2007)

Advice for the Discerning Technical Communicator

Dear Viv,

The holiday season will soon be upon us, and Im like four out of five people recently surveyed — Im looking forward to the festivities with mixed emotions. I enjoy certain elements of the holidays-the break from work is always a relief — and I am always anticipating what excitement might happen at the holiday gatherings.

With all the holiday buzz, I feel that my tech writing skills will take the back burner for a while. How can I incorporate my writing and communication experience into the joys of the season? Is there a way to be festive with my writing, editing, and designs?

Signed, Desperate in December

Dear Desperate,
Your feelings are justified, and I have just the answer.

Loosen up!! Drink eggnog, buy fun gifts for friends and family, and enjoy the holidays. You work hard enough every day throughout the year. Its time to kick back. After all, the holiday hubbub comes once a year.

If youre a workaholic like me, this answer doesnt satisfy you, and, in fact, makes you feel a little restless. Heres another option.

Many of the presents youll give this season include some kind of instructions, whether theyre for assembling a bookcase or programming a plasma TV. These directions can be skimpy, to say the least. Piece B doesnt fit into piece A, or the manufacturer disabled a feature without informing the technical writer.

The best present you can give, along with the gift itself, is your ability to break down information and assemble it into comprehensible pieces. Give your mom clear directions on using that new toaster/microwave/convection oven. You know what shell likely have problems with. You can provide customized user documentation at its best, and your audience is someone you really care about...well, most of the time!

Dear Viv invites constructive criticism, solicitations for adviceany sort of response, really. Email Viv at: dear_viv at stc-carolina dot org. End of article.

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