1News & Views January / February / March 2009
Letter from the President..................... 2
Divided by a Common Language................. 3
Defining a Body of Knowledge.................... 4
You Be the Judge.......................................5
Candidate Statements......................6 - 8
Book Review......................................... 9
Membership Report............................ 10
Calendar of Events..............................11
Candidate for Director
Second Vice President
pages 7 - 8
Brian J. Lindgren
Candidate for Treasurer
Second Vice President
STC Election Special: Meet the Candidates
This year’s STC-Philadelphia Metro Chapter Annual Workshop
and Conference will be Friday, March 27 and Saturday March
28 at Penn State University’s Great Valley Campus. For the first
time, this will be a joint conference between the PMC and the
STC Instructional Design and Learning SIG, and will serve as
their regional conference.
There will be four workshops on Friday, two of which will
be presented by Jean-luc Doumont, who will also be the keynote
speaker for the conference on Saturday, and two of which will be
presented by Jane Smith, who will also be conducting a confer-
On Saturday, there will be 16 conference sessions covering
a broad spectrum of written and visual communications top-
ics. Seventeen individual presenters will be participating in the
conference sessions including Cheryl Lockett Zubak and Peter
If you haven’t registered for the workshop or conference,
there is still time. Visit the STC-PMC website at www.stcpmc.
org/ to register online and learn more about the conference top-
ics and presenters. n
Annual STC-PMC Workshop and Conference: Visualizing Communication
by Dave Peirce
The STC 2009 election is now open. Members eligible to vote will have until noon, April
to vote for their chosen candidate for each of the available positions. Four of the
candidates have submitted articles to News & Views to better inform you about their
reasons for running for office and tell you about their qualifications and experience. In
addition to these articles, you can view more detailed information about all the candi-
dates including their biographies and their responses to questions they have been asked by
members on the STC Website at www.stc.org.
2News & Views January / February / March 2009
NEWS & VIEWS
Also Contributing to this Issue
Brian J. Lindgren
Submissions and Reprints
You may reprint original material appearing
in NEWS & VIEWS, as long as you acknowl-
edge the source and author and send us a copy
of the publication containing the reprint.
ISSN 1078-9952. NEWS & VIEWS, pub-
lished periodically throughout the year, is the
official publication of the Philadelphia Metro
Chapter of STC. We encourage letters, ar-
ticles, and other items for publication. Note:
By submitting an article, you implicitly grant
a license to this newsletter to run the article
and for other STC publications to reprint it
without permission. Unless otherwise noted,
copyrights for all newsletter articles belong to
the authors. The design and layout of this
newsletter are copyright STC, 2004–2008.
Address submissions or comments to Dave
Peirce, Managing Editor, NEWS & VIEWS,
c/o HBS, Inc., 738 Louis Drive, Warminster,
PA,18974; phone: (484) 919-0866; email:
Mission Statement Designing the future
of technical communication.
The Society For Technical Communi-
cation (STC) is an organization dedicated
to advancing technical communication.
Membership is open to those employed in,
interested in, or concerned with the profes-
sion of technical writing, publishing, or as-
sociated disciplines. Contact STC at 901 N.
Stuart St., Suite 904, Arlington, VA 22203,
703-522-4114, or http://www.stc.org.
Dear Fellow Technical Communicator,
I consider my STC dues to be the best professional development investment I
make each year. Because of my STC membership, I can:
Attend STC-Philadelphia Metro Chapter (PMC) Meetings to learn and•
Attend the upcoming STC-PMC Annual Conference and Workshops•
March 27 and 28 at reduced cost
Have a network of friends from whom I learn about job opportunities,•
get valuable advice, and sometimes just have fun
Use all of the online resources that STC and our chapter offer•
Join special interest groups (SIGs) that interest me•
Receive publications such as STC’s• Intercom and our own News and Views
These membership benefits help me keep up with our changing field, learn new
skills, increase my value to my employer, and serve my customers better.
The STC-PMC annual membership drive is happening now. If we have the
highest renewal percentage in our category from now until March 20, members
of our chapter can win these great prizes:
Two free registrations to STC’s 2009 Technical Communication Summit•
One 19” Flat Screen LCD TV•
One Epson Stylus Multifunction photo printer/copier/scanner•
Two $25 Amazon.com gift cards•
Can we do this? With your help, the answer is “yes.”
For more information about and to register for the STC-PMC Conference
and chapter meetings, please visit www.stcpmc.org/. If you have any questions
about the chapter, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information about the benefits of STC membership, visit www.stc.
org/membership or call the STC Member Services staff at 1 (703) 522-4114.
Letter from the President
by Marc Gravez
3News & Views January / February / March 2009
Immediate Past President
Chapter Committee Managers
News & Views
Gary Samartino &
Send correspondence for the
Philadelphia Metro chapter of
STC to: email@example.com
Divided by a Common Language
by Jiri Stejskal
eorge Bernard Shaw famously declared that England and America
were two countries divided by a common language. Oscar Wilde wrote
in Canterville Ghost that the Brits “…have really everything in common
with America nowadays, except, of course, the language.” Most of us are aware
of some differences in spelling, vocabulary, and idiomatic expressions when
comparing British and American English. For example, it is common knowledge
that the word color in America is colour in England, or that Americans like to
socialize while the Brits socialise instead. But there are other differences between
the two language variants. Take prepositions: American athletes play on a team
while their British colleagues play in a team. Or how about words that mean dif-
ferent things in different places: reportedly, the opposite meanings of the verb to
table created a misunderstanding at a meeting of the Allied forces during WWII,
because in England to table an item on an agenda means to open it up for discus-
sion, whereas in America, it means to remove it from discussion. Other differences
include pronunciation, use of tenses, dates and times, punctuation, and numer-
ous other grammatical and lexical dissimilitudes.
Microsoft Word’s spelling checker lets you choose from no less than 18
varieties of English, listing the following countries: Australia, Belize, Canada,
the Caribbean, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Jamaica, Malaysia, New
Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore, South Africa, Trinidad and Tobago, the
United Kingdom, the United States, and Zimbabwe. As a matter of fact, English
is spoken in 54 sovereign states and territories. In addition, English is the domi-
nant language in 25 non-sovereign entities (such as Hong Kong).
In some of the countries listed, English does not have “official” status. It
comes as a surprise to most people that among the countries lacking an official
language are Australia, the United Kingdom, and—how about that—the United
States. On the other hand, in some countries where English is the official lan-
guage (or one of multiple official languages), the number of native speakers is
quite low relative to the country’s population. India, for example, with a popula-
tion of 1.1 billion, has fewer than 200,000 native speakers of English. Accord-
ing to the Constitution of India, Hindi is the official language and English the
“subsidiary official language”; however, English is mandated for the authoritative
texts of all federal laws and Supreme Court decisions, and (along with Hindi) is
one of the two languages of the Indian Parliament.
Today, approximately 375 million people around the world speak English
as their first language, which makes it the third largest language by number of
native speakers, following Mandarin Chinese and Spanish. English and Span-
ish come close in terms of the number of native speakers; consider the fact that
about one eighth of the population of the United States are native Spanish
speakers. Of course, when we combine native speakers of English with those
who speak it as their second language, English is considered the number one
language spoken worldwide, even though in this case Chinese comes quite close,
too. The trick is to determine what the actual number is of people who speak
English as their second language, because of different levels of mastery of the
language. Will two semesters of studying English make you an English speaker?
Four? Or do you have to use the language on a daily basis to be considered?
continued on page 5
4News & Views January / February / March 2009
Defining a Body of Knowledge
by Hillary Hart
TC has meant a lot to my professional growth over
the past 20-plus years as a teacher and practitioner
of technical communication, and I want to help
STC expand its educational mission for all technical
It is time our profession had a defined body of knowl-
Technical communication cannot be a profession1.
without a defined body of knowledge (BOK).
We cannot define our value, to business and to2.
society, without a BOK.
The data I and others have collected show that com-
municators seem to be spending about the same amount
of time on communication processes as they are on
creating end-user documents or products. If we want to
maximize our value to the business functions of corpora-
tions and agencies, we need a body of knowledge that will
make that value clear to employers.
The BOK task force that I co-chair with Mark Hani-
gan is working hard to develop a Knowledge Portal that
will make accessible, in one easy-to-navigate web-based
portal, the body of technical-communication knowledge
that has evolved over time.
The Knowledge Portal will fill these critical needs:
New practitioners need to see their professional•
development pathways spelled out, along with
concomitant educational/training opportunities.
Veteran practitioners need a means for assessing•
their progress and determining what additional
training they may need.
Academic and training professionals need a source•
of assessment criteria for their programs.
Executives, who may never have heard of technical•
communication, need a place to find out what it
is that technical communicators can do for their
For me, the most amazing aspect of the BOK project
has been seeing how productively STC members collabo-
rate over time and distance. The BOK “map” of domains
and skills received hundreds of helpful suggestions last
June at the Summit in Philadelphia. And last September,
when the proposed site map for this portal was posted on
the STC website, over 150 STC members from all over the
globe provided comments. Now we are populating the map
nodes with content and will showcase our progress at the
upcoming Summit in Atlanta, where we hope to gain more
contributors. Such collective knowledge making is power-
ful indeed—imagine all 13,000 STC members worldwide
contributing their piece of the knowledge puzzle.
With job layoffs, cutbacks in institutional budgets, and
disappearance of companies, the one constant that cannot
be reduced is your knowledge—knowledge of how to do
many things in addition to writing clear documentation.
Knowledge of what it takes to create, manage•
distribute, and archive information in specific
media for specific users.
Knowledge of the processes that enhance business•
development because they enhance internal as well
as external communication.
Knowledge of the social, cultural, and even health•
impacts of the technologies being marketed under
the name of progress.
Knowledge of how to help people use technologies•
safely and wisely.
Your knowledge is your power, in any economic cli-
mate. Stay tuned for BOK updates. n
Hillary Hart, PhD
STC Director at Large
Candidate for 2009 2nd Vice-President
5News & Views January / February / March 2009
You be the Judge
by Kathleen Kemmerer
he experience of being a judge for the Technical
Writing Competition was new to me. I had judged
other kinds of contests and evaluated the work of
students and coworkers, but I had never formally judged a
writing competition for professionals in the field. So, why
bother? For me, there were two categories of reasons: the
professional and the personal.
Professionally, it is, of course, something to list on a
resume or vita, an item for your next performance review.
And it is an opportunity to be recognized for your own ex-
perience and expertise. But the professional benefits go far
beyond this. I got the opportunity to network with people
who are involved with technical communication in many
capacities, including those who have been STC members
for decades. It was an opportunity to benefit from the
experience of others, to learn. I appreciated the opportu-
nity to compare notes on our assessments of the work that
was before us. Both seeing the work of others and hear-
ing other people’s comments gave me a new appreciation
of the work we do and of the many ways of looking at a
piece. It helped me to look beyond what I usually value
in an example of technical communication, to revise my
expectations, to re-see the entry from another person’s
I could have chosen to judge remotely, to evaluate
the entries in the comfort of my home or office and get
together with a couple of others to decide the award levels
in person or by conference call or on-line meeting. This
is one option and would have been a good one for me
because I live and work a couple of hours away from the
metro area. I could still have interacted with people and
gotten the benefit of their experience, but I chose the on-
site judging for the social interaction.
Personally, the opportunity of meeting new people
with common interests in a sociable setting was a strong
draw. I had anticipated the day for weeks, read the judging
manual, poured over my entries, and driven to the Wil-
liam Janes Library in Layfette Hills. I had corresponded
with fellow judge William Collins and competition man-
ager Barrie Byron by email, but I didn’t know anyone. I
introduced myself and was welcomed and accepted as
though I had always participated. Although the purpose
of our meeting was serious, the atmosphere was pleasant
and friendly. Amid the smell of fresh coffee, a confusion
of friendly greetings and conversations in progress, and
a nice assortment of breakfast foods, we got down to the
business of reaching a consensus on award levels for the
entries. The experience was enjoyable, part social occa-
sion, part business meeting. It was fun, and I was a little
sad when the last entry was judged and packed away.
In many ways, it was almost as simple as recommend-
ing a book or movie to a friend and verbalizing what I
liked and didn’t like about it, but I found it to be far more
interesting. I hope you will consider joining us for next
year’s judging, whether or not you have participated in the
past. And even if you don’t know anyone, you can be as-
sured of a warm welcome and a good experience. n
Divided by a Common Language (Continued from page 3)
There are no clear guidelines.
English is a “pluricentric” language, which means that
there is no central language authority like France’s Académie
française, and therefore no variety is considered the “stan-
dard.” In theory there is a concept of “International Eng-
lish,” but in practice the English language in each country
has its own peculiarities and “International English” is not
being used, simply because most people don’t even know it
exists, and also because there is currently no consensus as
to exactly what it means.
Even though people in England, Canada, India, or
Australia will have no difficulties understanding American
English, it is an established practice to provide localized
versions of written materials in different English-speaking
countries. Localization (or “localisation” as the Brits would
have it) goes beyond replacing “color” with “colour.” Cur-
rencies, date and number formats, phone numbers, and
other country-specific items need to be localized. n
Jiri Stejskal, PhD, is the president of CETRA Language Solutions. He
currently also serves as the president of the American Translators As-
sociation and vice-president of Fédération Internationale des Traduc-
teurs (International Federation of Translators). He can be reached at
215-635-7090 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
6News & Views January / February / March 2009
Hello, and thank you in advance for taking the
time to read this message. As per the heading,
I am a candidate for STC Treasurer. Two questions that
come to mind are “Why are you running for a seat on the
board?” and “Why are you running for treasurer?” The
simple answer to both: I was asked.
A year ago, almost to the day, at the 2008 Interna-
tional Technical Communications Competitions (ITCC),
former STC President Mark Hanigan and I were chatting
at an after-event social with current First Vice President
Cynthia Currie and International Competitions Manager
Karen Baranich. This was a couple of months before I
was formally named Associate Fellow. Mark and I had
briefly met about 12 years earlier when he was Director-
Sponsor of my region, and we reconnected at this after-
hours event. As we talked about my STC background and
forthcoming Associate Fellowship, he said, “Maybe next
you should consider a national seat.”
Honestly, to that point I had never considered such
a thing, but Mark’s seemingly out-of-the-blue comment
stayed with me. Some six months later the nominating
committee e-mailed me that my name had been men-
tioned for possible consideration as a candidate for the
STC Board of Directors. Naturally I was honored, and
filed the paperwork accordingly, figuring that I would be
best suited as a Director on the board.
A week or so later the Nominating Committee
contacted me again. After reviewing my resume, they
wondered if I might consider running for Treasurer. In
hindsight, I imagine they picked up on my previous busi-
ness ownership, and my current involvement with Govern-
ment requests for proposal. The official STC description
reads, “Candidates for treasurer should have some busi-
ness experience, familiarity with managing a budget, a
sense about the financial impact of initiatives, expectation
of inevitable expenses, and comfort with spreadsheets.”
Guilty as charged.
The description continues, “a good candidate is
willing to advocate for fiscal responsibility and have a
different viewpoint from the rest of the Board of Direc-
tors.” Having a divergent opinion is certainly one of my
strengths—sometimes to a fault! Again, I was honored
that the committee asked me to run for Treasurer, and I
accepted. I have benefited greatly from involvement with
STC, and if running for Treasurer is a way for me to give
back, I am happy to do so.
There is an old riddle, “How can you spot an extro-
verted engineer? He looks at *your* shoes while he’s talk-
ing to you.” While I am not an engineer, I certainly have
some of the same traits, and I am not particularly enam-
ored with talking about myself. I have set up a website—
www.brianjlindgren.com—that provides some insight into
my background. Please take the time to review my past
involvement with STC, with other technical and volunteer
organizations, and my resume. If you believe I will serve
STC as your Treasurer, please vote for me. Once again,
that I was asked to run is a major honor. n
Brian J. Lindgren – Candidate for Treasurer
I’ve served STC-PMC as president, and now I
want to serve you as a Director of STC!
I want to take just a moment to talk to you about why
I think I will be a director who will serve you, the STC
membership, while working with all member of the STC
Board in this time of economic uncertainty.
Life circumstances have enabled me to enjoy living
in several states along the eastern coast of the U.S., and
wherever I’ve lived, I have been an active, contributing
member of the local STC community. Currently, I am a
member of the Philadelphia Metro and Orlando chap-
ters, and the Information Design and Architecture SIG.
When I was an independent contractor, I was active in the
Consulting and Independent Contracting SIG, for whom
I developed its first salary and interest survey.
More than 20 years of membership in the STC have
been extremely rewarding and enabled me to grow in
many ways. Throughout my career in the technical com-
munication profession, I have turned to STC as the best
source of professional information. The board needs to
ensure that STC continues to provide for the growth of
With years of experience in various officer roles for
both geographic and virtual communities, I am sensitive
to serving the best interests of the STC membership as
a whole. I believe that my broad experiences will help to
serve the Society as it continues its dynamic path through
the coming years. n
Lori Corbett – Candidate for Director
7News & Views January / February / March 2009
For the past 4 years, I’ve had the privilege of
serving as STC treasurer. During this dynamic
time of transition, we’ve invested in skilled professional man-
agement but now face the harsh realities of a poor economy.
Meeting 5 challenges will determine whether STC
will accomplish its strategic goals for the profession. STC
must succeed at Relevance, Replenishment, Recognition,
Resources, and Relationships and Combinations.
Ask yourself: can you afford not to be a member of
The test of a professional society is how often you
rely on it. An essential professional resource has a website
you visit everyday, archives that provide rich on-demand
information, publications that compel you to read some-
thing in every issue, networks that expand your thinking
and respond with answers, and resources for future growth.
It increases your value in the marketplace. And it is always
steering you toward knowledge and opportunities. It be-
comes an Every Day Professional Resource. I want an STC
that does these things.
Since 2006, the Board and Office have made great
strides to increase STC’s professional value. A skilled staff
has improved our education programs, publications, and
W.C. Wiese – Candidate for Second Vice President
I am a candidate for STC 2nd vice-president in
the upcoming election (voting starts March 9,
2009). Here is why I am running.
As an active participant in STC at the local and
international level for 21 years, and currently as Director-
at-large, I can see that STC has made some great strides in
the past couple of years:
extending its global reach and mission through a•
stronger presence in several international standards
groups such as OASIS, W3C, and ISO
providing more services to member communities,•
including the Leadership Community Resource to
help communities train new community leaders
advancing the profession by sponsoring the•
industry-academic partnership that is defining a
body of knowledge for technical communication
developing a new section of stc.org with concrete•
examples of the value of technical communication
STC is now a more transparent organization that has
learned to evaluate its programs and goals through strate-
gic planning and processes such as the Strategic Program
On the other hand, STC must continue to evolve…
and do so rapidly. The Society must adjust services and
processes quickly to keep pace with international eco-
nomic and technological developments while at the same
time maintaining a long-range vision of the value of
technical communication. And STC is still not as relevant
to all technical communicators, particularly younger ones,
as it should be.
I would work to enact these specific improvements to
STC’s benefit to members and the profession:
Continue to provide services to members who can-1.
not rejoin because they are unemployed.
Increase the number of free or low-fee webinars2.
geared to professional development.
Target even more resources to the Body of Knowl-3.
edge Portal project to give members the knowledge
they need to retune or refit their skills for changing
economic and business conditions.
Plan a Summit to be held outside the United States.4.
Target more services and information to technical5.
communicators under forty. They are the future of
As an educational association, STC can best serve
its membership by providing access to knowledge and by
educating the public and employers about what technical
communicators really do. As an educator, I know some-
thing about reaching out to diverse audiences on a daily
basis. And as co-chair of the STC Body of Knowledge
(BOK) task force, I am working with a terrific team of
academic and industry professionals to build a web-based
portal that will make accessible the body of technical-
Knowledge is power. With job layoffs, cutbacks in
institutional budgets, and disappearance of companies, the
one constant that cannot be reduced is our individual and
collective knowledge. Help me empower our membership.
Thanks so very much for your support. n www.youtube.
Hillary Hart – Candidate for Second Vice President
. . .
8News & Views January / February / March 2009
society operations. We still need to improve how our mem-
bers interact, mentor, and support each other. We need to
continue improvements in the Annual Summit and bring
you into regular contact with new standards, our role in
guiding them, and the outcomes we’d like to see.
We need to elevate our members in the employment
marketplace by identifying the trends, technologies, and
education that will increase your value. We need to prove
our case, and that means spending STC’s research dollars
with respected economists who can measure the value we
add to products. We need metrics that prove that we make
a difference in the products people select and depend on.
The resources are coming into place that should
allow STC to develop and expand a validated program
library from which chapters and individuals can pur-
chase downloadable programming suitable for meetings
or podcasts so you can increase skills on demand. STC
should be extraordinary at this—we’re a global educa-
tional nonprofit organization of communicators! And the
ability to access this kind of career enrichment is one test
of STC’s value.
We also need to improve STC’s value where you mea-
sure it most—in your pay. By helping the U.S. Bureau of
Labor Statistics adopt a contemporary definition of what
we do, STC can drive fair compensation for the expanded
range of skills we represent in the U.S. and internationally.
We can no longer defer expanding our presence
in schools or encouraging promising students who are
considering a career in technical communication. I will
encourage an active and growing partnership with univer-
sities to develop and communicate the Body of Knowl-
edge and our understanding of the marketplace. We need
to encourage curricula that are congruent with our view
of the profession and the needs of future employers.
STC’s future growth and energy depend on meeting
the needs of young communicators and the schools that
motivate and educate them. Academic partnerships and
student memberships must be priorities.
We struggle to concisely tell our employers about the
difference we make for them because the range of our
contributions is so vast.
By celebrating the achievements of STC members
publicly, we do two things. We rejoice in the success of
our colleagues and learn from them. We also demonstrate
to business leaders and other professions what we do and
what it looks like when it’s done well. A million dollars
saved or won in any business represents our potential to
perform at this level in all of them.
I fully believe that we make products and ideas more
competitive in the marketplace. Through our hands, ideas
become more persuasive, explanations clearer, help more
usable, customers more satisfied, and products better.
The STC website doesn’t need job definitions. It
needs testimonials, demonstrations, and celebrations that
show what we did and continue to do everyday. I will cel-
ebrate your successes and publish them to the world.
As treasurer, I’ve helped manage STC as a business.
The Board and the STC office have measurably improved
their capacity to support society members and their com-
munities. New investments are improving STC’s member-
ship experience. Despite economic challenges, we will
continue to increase the value of membership, particularly
through development of targeted education products
while we examine the potential of certification.
I will continue to work with our Executive Director
to decrease the cost of governing the society. Face-to-face
board meetings have been reduced from 3 to 2 per year,
and the office has been relocated to achieve savings. In
fairness, the hard work of finding new facilities has been
done by the office staff, who continue to suggest best
practices and to seek economies without impacting the
services you need. We need to continue the benefits of
5. Relationships and Combinations
It helps to know that STC is not alone. Other orga-
nizations are feeling the pinch of tough economic times.
We’re each rowing harder, yet we continue to stay in our
Among groups that share our professional interests,
we may find that we are a stronger organization and have
the ability to enrich others through relationships yet to be
discussed. We could combine a competition, perhaps, or
share a conference elsewhere. We should be bold enough
to consider merging a weaker association into STC if a
mutual benefit can result. Perhaps one that already has
experience with certification?
We have not done enough in this area, and it’s impor-
tant for us to start.
And in Conclusion
I hope that my vision and concerns for STC are
yours as well. I ask for your vote in this election, but let me
encourage you to vote for any candidate who shares your
views. STC needs your full participation if it is to best
serve your needs. n
9News & Views January / February / March 2009
The Energies, Gists, and Spirits of Letters, Words, and
Combinations Thereof; Their Roots, Bones, Innards, Piths, Pips, and Secret Parts, Tinctures,
Tonics, and Essences; With Examples of Their Usage Foul and Savory
Roy Blount Jr.’s Alphabet Juice:
Reviewed by Al Brown
ere is another book on language by a celebrity
author. Roy Blount Jr. (the lack of a comma is in-
tentional; see Jr.) may be well known as a humor-
ist and guest on various National Public Radio programs.
But he also has an impressive resume as a writer for many
publications, including a long stint with Sports Illustrated, as
well as having a 17th century ancestor who produced the
first etymological dictionary of the English language. He’s
on the American Heritage Dictionary Usage Panel too. So
he knows whereof he speaks—or writes.
This explains a lot about the book. It looks like a refer-
ence: it’s arranged alphabetically, and has lots of informa-
tion on the origins of words, with occasional references to
Proto-Indo-European roots: “Evening: No etymological
connection between this word’s meaning ‘time for a drink’
and its meaning, ‘establishing equilibrium,’ except in this
song title zeugma: ‘Things Had a Way of Evening Out,
Till I Spent One Out with You.’” In spite of the facetious-
ness of many of his examples, this reflects deep, serious
scholarship and obvious love of words and language.
The book sometimes mentions high-profile linguistic
theorists, then usually ignores what they have to say. He
quarrels with the notion that words are arbitrary symbols
for the meanings they represent. This may be scientifically
useful, Blount says, but “as a principle of English-language
appreciation, at least, separation of sound from sense is
audibly, utterly wrong.” He prefers words whose sounds
somehow reflect and reinforce their meaning. For this he
creates the term sonicky: “I mean the quality of a word
whose sound doesn’t imitate a sound, like boom or poof, but
does somehow sensuously evoke the essence of the word:
queasy or rickety or zest or sluggish or vim.” Alphabet Juice is
filled with meditations on this idea inspired by specific
words. There are also many lists of sonicky words, often
included in the initial entry for each letter; words with k in
them, for example, are traditionally funny. It doesn’t matter
to Blount that there’s no linguistic basis for this; what mat-
ters is that when you’re choosing the right word, its sound
makes a difference. Is this true for technical communica-
tors? That’s a different question.
Blount provides lots of helpful tips on style and usage:
“Double negative: A no-no, according to strict gram-
marians.” “Comma: There are, of course, rules, but
my instinct is to use commas like musical notations, for
rhythm, emphasis, and clarity....” The section on Clarity,
which quotes Gertrude Stein extensively, ends with this ad-
vice about revision: “Looking back over what you’ve writ-
ten and changing it and changing it and changing it and
changing it is a drag, but it (doing what I just said) makes
it (the writing) more gracious and forceful.” This idea also
runs throughout the book, the notion that it takes a lot of
work to make writing seem simple and effortless.
Alphabet Juice is useless as a reference tool. You’d never
figure out how to look up a particular usage issue; chances
are good it won’t be where you expect, assuming it’s
there at all. Furthermore, the book is littered with quirky
entries—such as Ipsilateral, Goodie Two-Shoes, or
Irony, lost on someone (Blount proposes a government
agency to keep statistics on the losses)—that often contain
the most entertaining writing.
This is the part of the review where I normally discuss
a book’s usefulness—real or imagined—to the technical
communicator. This time I’m stumped. However, here is
one beautifully phrased piece of advice that applies:
The challenge in straightforward reportorial writing is
to get all the relevant information you can into as little
space as possible, without causing the reader to stop,
double-hitch, blink, and reread. Poetry, you want to read
over and over, to get as much savor and meaning from it
as you can. When you read newspaper reporting over and
over it’s usually because there’s a snag in it somewhere.
This is not to say that Alphabet Juice doesn’t belong on
your reference shelf. When you’re having a really bad day,
pull it down and look up something at random; Alphabet
Juice may not improve your prose style, but it will get you
over the rough patches. n
Roy Blount Jr., Alphabet Juice: The Energies, Gists, and Spirits of Letters, Words,
and Combinations Thereof; Their Roots, Bones, Innards Piths, Pips, and Secret
Parts, Tinctures, Tonics, and Essences; With Examples of Their Usage Foul and
Savory. New York: Farrar, Strauss and Giroux: 2008. ISBN-13: 978-0-
10News & Views January / February / March 2009
n these uncertain economic times, we carefully choose each investment, in-
cluding the investments we make in our professional career. Our STC-PMC
membership investment is economic when we consider our dues renewal
payment. Our other, more important, investment in our time and our level of
Of our 279 members, only 125 members have renewed their STC mem-
bership on www.stc.org. I encourage our remaining 154 members to take the
required action to retain your membership. By making this economic investment
in your professional development, you will retain access to our members-only
Web site content, such as job postings and current member roster. If you don’t
have Web access, please contact our Webmaster at email@example.com to
request access to www.stcpmc.org. If you are not receiving chapter e-mail corre-
spondence, you might have the No STC email option selected on your member
profile on www.stc.org. Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you
have questions about your membership. I am here to serve!
When you renew your STC-PMC membership for 2009, you are eligible for
our low member pricing for our spring conference (more details in this newslet-
ter and on the Web at www.stcpmc.org/index.php?section=42.
The best investment you make in your STC-PMC membership is not
economic, it is your attention and your participation. Our chapter is a volun-
teer organization that provides us with a safe environment for professional and
leadership growth. Consider volunteering, submitting an article to the newsletter,
or presenting at a chapter meeting. We have many opportunities for members,
including virtual opportunities for members with busy schedules and a different
Your membership in STC-PMC is like your gym membership or your
library card, it works best when you work it! n
by Barrie Byron
We extend a cordial welcome to the
new members who joined us in June
and July this year, listed below:
Jeffery C Borders•
Robert J Carelli•
Maureen A DeOrio•
Amanda L McGeary•
Lisa D Poe•
Toni E Saddler French•
Kathryn D Suppan•
Julie C.M. Thomas•
Rachel P Wilder•
Lynn A Williams•
Marie Therese Zenne• r
STC-PMC 2008 Competition Results
The annual STC Philadelphia Metro Chapter technical communications competitions received a record-breaking
number of entries and volunteer judges. We received 43 entries in the following categories:
26 technical publication entries•
11 online communication entries•
6 technical art entries•
A warm thanks to our 27 volunteer judges.
See our website for the detailed results of this competition: stcpmc.org/index.php?section=18. n
11News & Views January / February / March 2009
Calendar of Events
The information in the following table was correct at the time News & Views was published. Be sure to check the website
(www.stcpmc.org) for details and late-breaking updates to the schedule. For all Thursday meetings, reservations are due
by the Monday before the meeting. Meeting registration begins at 6 pm, followed by networking and dinner until 7 pm.
Programs start at 7 pm.
Date Event Location Time
March 26 NY Metro Program Meeting: Virtual
- STC SIGs and Forums: How They Can
Increase Your Professional Value
(near Fulton Street)
New York, New York
- virtual through LiveMeeting
5:30pm - 8:00 pm
March 27 - 28 STC-Philadelphia Metro Chapter
- Visualizing Communication
The Conference Center,
Penn State Greater Valley
30 E. Swedesford Road
Malvern, PA 19355
May 3 - 6 STC Tech Comm Summit Hyatt Regency Atlanta
265 Peachtree Street NE
Atlanta, GA, 30303
org/ for details.
Steve Lungren and his wife Karen hosted our 2008 STC-PMC holiday gathering at their home in Glenside, Pennsylvania. Many thanks to
Steve and Karen for hosting this third annual festive event. Pictured are (from L to R): Steve Lungren, Marianne Johnston, Zippy Goldberg,
John Corbin, Karen Flam, Gary Sternberg, Barrie Byron, Lori Corbett, David Calloway, Joe Broderick, Sheryl Sankey, Marc Gravez, Dave
Sankey, Laurie and Tim Esposito.
Third Annual Holiday Event
Conference Looks at Leveraging
Find out how to use visual communication to improve the
effectiveness of your technical documentation and instructional
material at this year’s version of our exciting, award-winning
Our keynote speaker, the internationally acclaimed expert on
visual communications Jean-luc Doumont, will kick things off by
presenting his simple but solid guiding principles for designing
visually effective communication.
Following the keynote will be more than a dozen presentations
over four sessions covering areas such as:
• Career development
• Instructional design and e-Learning development
• Content management
• Writing and design skills improvement
Of course, there will be ample opportunity to network, catch up
with old friends, and make new ones.
Workshops Examine Visual
Communication, Instructional Design
This year we’ve doubled our workshop offerings, with
Jean-luc Doumont and instructional design/E-Learning expert
Jane Smith both leading two half-day workshops.
Extend your visual communication and IDL IQ as Jean-luc and
Jane introduce key concepts, and then facilitate hands-on
exploration of those concepts through case studies and group
Friday, March 27, 2009
Morning sessions: 8 am to noon
Afternoon sessions: 1 to 5 pm
Saturday, March 28, 2009
8 am to 5 pm
The Conference Center
Penn State Great Valley
School of Graduate Professional Studies
30 E. Swedesford Road
Malvern, PA 19355
For more info and to register,
click on the STC-PMC Conference link at
Register by Feb 27 and save!
The 2009 Regional
March 27–28, at Penn State Great Valley
The Society for TechnicalCommunication
Philadelphia Metro Chapter
The STC Instructional Design
& Learning SIG