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Message for the NC State Student Chapter
2003, Q3 (July 10, 2007)
by Maggie Van Norman

After becoming the new STC@NCSU president last spring, I was honored to accept a scholarship from the Carolina Chapter of STC that allowed me to attend the 50th annual STC conference in Dallas, Texas. The conference was outstanding, offering technical and educational sessions as well as the opportunity to meet technical communicators from all over the world. I would not have been able to attend without the Carolina Chapter’s support.

STC@NCSU won another Chapter of Excellence award and a Merit award for its newsletter. Many thanks to our faculty advisors, Sarah Egan Warren and Dr. Stanley Dicks, and our outgoing president, Lars Nelson, for all their hard work. Also, thanks to the Carolina Chapter and its president, Meredith Blackwelder, for continued support of our student chapter.

The conference also honored the winning entries from STC’s international online communication competition. NCSU alumnus Anna Weaver was on hand to receive a Distinguished Technical Publication award for her work on the RTI International External Web Site. Stuart Somer and Henry Rogers share the honor with her. Congratulations!

So many interesting sessions were offered at the conference, it was often difficult to choose which one to attend. One of the more interesting session options is a “progression.” This is a perfect option for those of us who just can’t decide.

A progression is held on a broad topic, such as instructional design or skills for changing careers. Many tables are set up with speakers who discuss specific topics within the broad topic. Attendees have the opportunity to visit with three to four of the speakers throughout the progression, which provides a nice range of information. The tables are a great way to be able to ask specific questions in a smaller group.

I attended the progression on instructional design and received some great information. Since not everyone is interested in instructional design, I won’t go into specifics here.

I also attended a session on the “Golden Rules of Writing,” which was given by Leah Guren from the Israel chapter of STC. Leah is known as an engaging speaker and her session was standing room only.

Her abbreviated rules are as follows:
  • Audience analysis is essential. Leah recommends using customer contact and internal sources to prepare for a mixed audience.
  • Chunk. We should all be familiar with this idea, but it is always worth mentioning. Tables, list, bullets, and flow charts are great ways to convey information. She also recommended limiting paragraphs to no more than two sentences.
  • Consistency is a good thing. Using various terms to refer to one object can be confusing to people. Leah also recommends consistency in fonts and layouts and the use of a style guide. A consistent layout can also be useful in signposting.
  • Follow conventions. Flaunting convention can sometimes be innovative, but placing an index in the front could frustrate people.
  • Use illustrations wisely. Graphics and illustration can be powerful tools in conveying information, but overuse can be detrimental. Consider whether the illustration is needed and what role it will play in the text.
  • Use specific language. Leah recommends avoiding words like please, might, could, and can.

Leah’s session was informative and interesting. For more information, you can visit her website at http://www.wordsisrael.com.

Maggie Van Norman is President of the NCSU Student Chapter. She can be reached at mag_van at yahoo dot com. End of article.

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