Howard’s Technical Writing Blog

A technical writer’s miscellany

Archive for the ‘Technical writing’ Category

An intriguing job title

Posted by Howard Silcock on 12 April 2010

I recently received an email from an agent interested to hear from people with skills in technical writing and other areas. What intrigued me most about it was the job title under the author’s signature. It seems she was a ‘Competency Lead’. (I daresay the author didn’t expect me to give her signature block such critical attention. But when you work with words all day, as I do, sometimes you notice these things.)

I remember being similarly intrigued when I first saw the term ‘team lead’. My dictionary seemed to confirm my gut feeling that the noun ‘lead’ doesn’t usually apply to a person, except in the theatre. But I don’t suppose that would deter whoever once came up with that term in my workplace. It was used for a position slightly below ‘team leader’ (I worried that if my performance fell below par, I might be demoted from a ‘technical writer’ to a mere ‘technical write’).

However, the word ‘Competency’ in the agency’s email was even more puzzling. Does the agency have a section devoted specifically to competency? Isn’t that something that’s everyone’s concern—in every business?

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Typing special characters in Windows applications using ANSI codes

Posted by Howard Silcock on 3 March 2010

You can use ANSI codes as a quick and easy way to type common accented letters and special characters in Windows applications. The trouble is, you either have to memorise the codes or keep looking them up—which is harder than it needs to be, because the tables contain many codes you’ll never need (including codes for everything you can type directly) and the symbols aren’t grouped at all logically but in the numerical order of the codes. So I created my own table, listing just the codes I thought I might use and setting them out in a way that I find logical. Read the rest of this entry »

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Easier Folder Access

Posted by Howard Silcock on 13 February 2010

I don’t know about you, but when I’m working on a large Windows network, I find it frustrating to hunt through hierarchies of folders on different drives, looking for  folders buried many layers down. I wanted to set up my environment so I could go straight to each key folder and display its contents. And, since I may need the folder open several times a day, I wanted it to open a certain way—generally in a dual-pane Explorer view, with the navigator pane not the Windows Explorer task pane) on the left. I prefer some folders to open maximised and others—usually smaller ones—to open neither maximised nor minimised. So I experimented and  fiddled around, and eventually I found a suitable set-up. (This is all described in terms of a Windows XP environment.)

Read the rest of this entry »

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The Technical Editor’s Blacklist

Posted by Howard Silcock on 12 February 2010

My original idea for this blog was to include some material that I’d already published elsewhere on the web, so it would be collected in one place. However, I now realise that that’s not always going to work, simply because of the limitations of the blogging software. Some of my web-based material makes use of JavaScript, which is simply not allowed by WordPress.

One example is the Technical Editor’s Blacklist, which I developed a few years ago from joint work carried out with Barbara Jones and Diana Muzrimas. Both Barbara and I still refer to this for our own work and I’ve also mentioned it to others and got useful feedback and suggestions. I haven’t done much to maintain it recently, but I still stand by its recommendations and hope it may be useful to others. It uses a tabbed interface that relies heavily on JavaScript.

Have a look—and let me know if you have any suggestions for improving it.

Posted in Editing, Technical writing | Leave a Comment »


Posted by Howard Silcock on 11 February 2010

Thank you for visiting my blog.

My hope for this blog is that, if you have an interest in some aspect of technical writing, there’s at least a chance that you’ll find something here that may be of interest—either some insight into the day-to-day concerns of a technical writer, or some useful reference information, or who knows what else. I aim to avoid simply giving you my opinions or a blow-by-blow account of my daily dramas and instead to provide at least something to think about. Another reason for creating this blog was well summed up by another Australian tech writer and blogger Rhonda Bracey: to prop up a dodgy memory! I have been thinking of a number of pieces of information that might go down well here and also serve that purpose.

Of course, all these aims remain to be realised at this stage.

Posted in Technical writing | Tagged: , | 2 Comments »