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STC PMC Newsletter 2009-01


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STC PMC Newsletter January/February/March 2009

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STC PMC Newsletter 2009-01

  1. 1. 1News & Views January / February / March 2009 Volume 41 Number 4 January/February/March 2009 Contents 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 Competition Results............................10 Calendar of Events..............................11 Holiday Photo......................................11 Lori Corbett Candidate for Director page 6 W.C. Wiese Candidate for Second Vice President pages 7 - 8 Brian J. Lindgren Candidate for Treasurer page 6 Hillary Hart Candidate for Second Vice President page 7 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- ence session. 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 Dykstra. 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 9th 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
  2. 2. 2News & Views January / February / March 2009 NEWS & VIEWS Newsletter Staff Managing Editor Dave Peirce Layout Editor Frank Gambino Associate Editor open Also Contributing to this Issue Al Brown Barrie Byron Lori Corbett Marc Gravez Hillary Hart Kathleen Kemmerer Brian J. Lindgren Dave Peirce Jiri Stejskal W.C. Wiese 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 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• network 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• in Atlanta One 19” Flat Screen LCD TV• One Epson Stylus Multifunction photo printer/copier/scanner• Two $25 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 If you have any questions about the chapter, you can email me at For more information about the benefits of STC membership, visit org/membership or call the STC Member Services staff at 1 (703) 522-4114. Thanks, Marc Gravez President, STC-PMC Letter from the President STC Membership by Marc Gravez
  3. 3. 3News & Views January / February / March 2009 STC-PMC LEADERSHIP Chapter Officers President Marc Gravez Vice President Marianne Johnston Treasurer Gary Samartino Secretary Gary Sternberg Immediate Past President Lori Corbett Chapter Committee Managers Careers Stephen Adler Marianne Johnston Programs Marianne Johnston Membership Barrie Byron News & Views Dave Peirce Website Steve Lungren Stephen Adler Public Relations Stephen Adler Education Timothy Esposito STC-PMC Conference Gary Samartino & Steven Lungren Competition Barrie Byron Send correspondence for the Philadelphia Metro chapter of STC to: Divided by a Common Language by Jiri Stejskal G 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
  4. 4. 4News & Views January / February / March 2009 Defining a Body of Knowledge by Hillary Hart S 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 communicators. It is time our profession had a defined body of knowl- edge. Why? 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 company. 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 Campaign Video:
  5. 5. 5News & Views January / February / March 2009 You be the Judge by Kathleen Kemmerer T 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 professional perspective. 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
  6. 6. 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——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 its members. 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
  7. 7. 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. 1. Relevance Ask yourself: can you afford not to be a member of STC? 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 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 Analysis. 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 the profession. 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- communication knowledge. 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 com/watch?v=WrGRDAUhzgw Hillary Hart – Candidate for Second Vice President . . .
  8. 8. 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. 2. Replenishment 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. 3. Recognition 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. 4. Resources 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 this teamwork. 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 lanes. Why? 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
  9. 9. 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: Book Review Reviewed by Al Brown H 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- 374-10369-9 (Hardback).
  10. 10. 10News & Views January / February / March 2009 I 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 participation. Of our 279 members, only 125 members have renewed their STC mem- bership on 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 to request access to If you are not receiving chapter e-mail corre- spondence, you might have the No STC email option selected on your member profile on Please contact me at 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 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 geography. 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 Membership Manager Membership Report Membership Update We extend a cordial welcome to the new members who joined us in June and July this year, listed below: Mujtaba Ahmed• Grace Aquino• 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• Charles Wasserott• 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: n
  11. 11. 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 ( 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 & NYC - STC SIGs and Forums: How They Can Increase Your Professional Value Thomson Reuters 195 Broadway (near Fulton Street) New York, New York - virtual through LiveMeeting 5:30pm - 8:00 pm March 27 - 28 STC-Philadelphia Metro Chapter 2009 Conference - Visualizing Communication The Conference Center, Penn State Greater Valley 30 E. Swedesford Road Malvern, PA 19355 Workshop: Friday Conference: Saturday May 3 - 6 STC Tech Comm Summit Hyatt Regency Atlanta 265 Peachtree Street NE Atlanta, GA, 30303 Visit 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
  12. 12. Conference Looks at Leveraging Visual Communication 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 Conference! 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 exercises. Workshops: Friday, March 27, 2009 Morning sessions: 8 am to noon Afternoon sessions: 1 to 5 pm Conference: Saturday, March 28, 2009 8 am to 5 pm Where: 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! Present The 2009 Regional Workshops & Conference: VISUALIZING COMMUNICATION March 27–28, at Penn State Great Valley The Society for TechnicalCommunication Philadelphia Metro Chapter with The STC Instructional Design & Learning SIG and