Dive in to Windows 10 with award-winning journalist and Windows Expert Ed Bott in this highly curated free eBook covering the top apps, accessories, and utilities included in the box with Windows 10.
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A Technical Writer position in Forth Worth,TX is available courtesy of Adecco Engineering and Technology. You must have a minimum of two years …
Changing the world is all in a day’s work at Apple. If you love innovation, here’s your chance to make a career of it. You’ll work hard. But the job comes …
By Paulina Gibson
Special for TCC
As PDF is the dominant format for corporate document sharing, it is no wonder there is a wide selection of complimentary tools that can help you get more done when working with this file format.
Even though Adobe also has its set of additional tools and extensions, at times they can cost a lot of money.
Luckily, there are a lot of free options a professional can choose in order to be more productive.
One tool that is particularly popular among lawyers, accountants and HR managers is this free PDF to Excel online software.
The beauty of this tool is that it allows you to convert extensive PDF reports without any limitations on the number of files you can convert, or their size.
For example, an accountant can easily take a large annual financial report in PDF format and convert the figures into editable and collectable financial stats. Similarly, an HR representative from a big corporation can easily convert job application data saved in PDF format into editable Excel sheets and save a lot of time by doing so.
PDF to Excel converter is not only more time efficient, but also more effective. By giving the software the task to compile data, the number of mistakes that a human would make while transferring data manually is much smaller.
You can easily use this tool by following the 3 simple steps below.
To start, take the PDF file you want to convert by clicking on the Select button, as seen from the image above. A great bonus for this tool is the fact that you can use it with any device, as the page is absolutely responsive. This means that you can finish all the paperwork from either your PC, laptop, tablet or a mobile phone.
Lastly, click the green Convert button in the third section. Your conversion should take only a couple of minutes. In rare cases it can take a bit longer (up to 30 minutes) if there are a lot of conversions in queue.
That was it, a really simple and free way to save yourself some time at work. Feel free to check this tool out for yourself.
(Do you have any other alternatives for converting files to your favorite formats? Please leave a comment down below. Thanks.)
© Ugur Akinci
If you pull your readers into a topic by asking a rhetorical question that’s perfectly acceptable as a writing style.
But if you do that, you’d better answer your own question right away. Otherwise some of your readers can be really frustrated.
Rhetorical questions increase the stakes. They introduce a tension that needs to be relieved by delivering the promised answer. You cannot assume that the readers know the answer to such a question.
Rhetorical questions that are left unanswered is a sign of sloppy writing at best. Some reader may even construe it as “disrespect for the audience.”
Here is an example:
The paragraph opens up with a wonderful teaser: “So, what is Git in a nutshell?”
But then writer disregards her own question and forgets to answer it. No where on the page is there a definition of Git “in a nutshell.” The overall impact is one of frustration and unrealized user expectation.
If you’d like to maximize the User Experience (UX) of your documentation don’t forget to answer your own rhetorical questions. The sooner the better.
Which new topic would you like to master next?
We are developing our next wave of online video courses.
Our goal is to make sure we offer exactly what you want.
Here are some of the topics under development:
(1) Which of the above topics would you like to learn the most?
(2) What other topic would you like to study this Spring?
You can send your response to [email protected] for a surprise gift as a token of our appreciation!
Many thanks in advance for your response.
Ugur Akinci, Ph.D.
© Ugur Akinci
Every job, every occupation has its rules, correct?
Break these rules and you’ll be in trouble.
Here are some general rules in tech writing:
Tech Writing is Correct
This is the most important (but not the only) characteristics of technical writing.
No matter what else it is, a technical document first of all needs to be CORRECT and ACCURATE.
If it’s not correct, nothing else matters. You can dump such incorrect document straight into the trash bin.
For example, if a document instructs the user to connect a 100 Volt appliance to a 220 Volt outlet, that is an incorrect and dangerous instruction. Wrong technical instruction can be very costly and even lethal at times.
So I cannot emphasize this one enough: please make sure your documentation is CORRECT above anything else. Double and triple-check the accuracy of everything you write.
Tech Writing is Detached
Technical writing is detached from our emotions and value judgments as human actors. For that reason, a technical writer should refrain from projecting human desires and emotions onto technical systems.
For example, be wary of the verb “want” since a system really never “wants” anything. It either does something or fails to do it.
BAD DESCRIPTION: “When you press the START button, don’t worry if the engine does not want to come alive right away.”
BETTER DESCRIPTION: “Press the START button to start the engine. Wait a few seconds if the engine does not start right away.”
(What do you think about this post and video? Please leave a comment. I’d like to know what you’re thinking. Thanks!)
Or, “What I learned from James Williamson”…
© Ugur Akinci
Someone said “good technical writing is boring writing.”
Not only that is true, but that’s a beautiful thing too.
Allow me to explain.
Let’s think about what makes a piece of writing EXCITING versus BORING.
Read any creative writing book you like and I think you’ll see that the author recommends VARYING word usage, VARYING sentence length, VARYING adjectives and descriptions, the voice and even POINT OF VIEW….
VARIANCE, in short, is what makes prose exciting and ENTERTAINING.
But VARIANCE can literally be DEADLY when it comes to technical writing.
Would you rather be ENTERTAINED or DEAD? (I’m exaggerating a bit of course but I think you get the idea.)
Here is how my reasoning goes…
Imagine you are flying in a commercial airplane.
Again imagine that the MAINTENANCE of that plane has been performed just before you took off, by MECHANICS who were trained by MAINTENANCE GUIDES that included a lot of ENTERTAINING VARIATIONS such as the following:
Page 16: “The TURBO FANS must be maintained every 100,000 aeronautical miles.”
Page 52: “Use only GR567 fluid when greasing the TURBO BLADES.”
Page 110: “Follow these procedures for the second stage of ENGINE ASPIRATION UNIT maintenance…”
Page 268: “Follow these procedures to uninstall and re-install each PROPELLER FIN UNIT…”
Imagine the mechanics trained on an ENTERTAINING maintenance manual, complete with JOKES and TRIVIA, a manual in which the same object (ENGINE FANS) is referred to 4 different ways, with a lot of VARIANCE….
Would you feel flying on a plane like that?
I definitely would like to fly on a plane maintained according to a manual in which the same object is referred to in exactly the same way throughout the manual. I’d feel more comfortable with a manual that exhibits ZERO VARIANCE.
And such a manual would OF COURSE be BORING by DESIGN.
As technical writers we are not trying to entertain the world. There are plenty people who are doing that.
We are instead trying to EMPOWER people so that they will PERFORM technical PROCEDURES without any ERRORS, and do so in a TOTALLY PREDICTABLE way, in a fashion that F-15 pilots call “FLAWLESS EXECUTION.”
Without FLAWLESS technical documentation, there is no flawless execution and lives would be at stake.
So cheers for the no-variance documents! Cheers for boring manuals! And cheers for safe trips across the continents.
(What do you think on this issue? Please leave a comment below. Thanks.)
(Please leave a comment, good or bad, I appreciate them all. What questions do you have? I’m interested to know. Many thanks!)
© Ugur Akinci
I have a confession to make today…
I’m embarrassed and actually still blush a little when I remember how I started my tech writing career.
The year was 1998.
At the time I was a reporter for a print daily covering the U.S. State Department and the U.S. Congress.
It was an exciting job which allowed me to rub elbows with the rich and famous, the movers and shakers of the nation’s capital.
These were all powerful men and women, way above my socioeconomic class and pay grade.
If it weren’t for my credentials as a journalist, I’d never have the chance to share the same room with them.
Once for example I rode the same elevator with the late Sen.Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts. Perhaps a trivial moment by the standards of many people but I still remember that day.
Other times I would attend the press briefings at the White House even though I was not an accredited White House reporter. To be in the same room with a Cabinet Secretary or the President of the United States is an experience I’ll cherish as long as I live.
However, the truth is I wasn’t making any money at all.
The print journalism was already in trouble and I knew I had to something else if I were to take care of my family.
One morning as my wife was leaving the house I asked her where she was going. “To my head hunter,” she said. Back then she was a newbie computer programmer looking for a job.
“You wanna come too?” my wife asked.
And for no good reason at all, for reasons I still cannot explain, I said “Yes, why not?”
So we went together to this glass-and-chrome employment agency office in a commercial tower in Rockville, Maryland.
After the usual exchange of pleasantries, my wife introduced me as a writer in-between jobs, which in a sense was true.
After she listened to me for a few minutes, the recruiter said something that changed my life forever:
“I might have something for you… would you considering a technical writing position?” she asked.
And like an idiot, I said … “What is that?”
My god, I still cringe when I remember that moment. Whew!
The truth is, like millions of people in the world, I also had not heard of “technical writing” before.
She explained to me patiently what tech writing was and why it would be a great fit for me given my technical and creative sides. I kept nodding my head and the rest is history, as they say.
So if you at this point also do not have a very clear idea of what technical writing is, it’s completely understandable because once upon a time I didn’t know what the heck it was either. There’s a beginning to everything, isn’t it?
(How do you feel about this video? What do you think? Please leave a comment below. Thanks.)
© Ugur Akinci
Here are three email job alert feeds that I use all the time. When you create any of these, you’ll find an email in your inbox every day listing the jobs available for your search keyword(s).
1) Create a free account.
1) Sign on to your free Google or Gmail account.
1) Log in to your free Craigslist account.
Free photo courtesy of MorgueFile.com
Cause and Effect Sentence
Writing a cause and effect sentence is very commonplace in both fiction and non-fiction works.
Its structure is very simple and straight forward.
There are two basic types of cause and effect sentences:
1) You start with a CAUSE, then connect it to an EFFECT with a CONJUNCTION.
2) You start with an EFFECT, then connect it to a CAUSE with a CONJUNCTION.
An alternative form starts with the CONJUNCTION:
3) You start with a CONJUNCTION, then follow it with a CAUSE, comma, and an EFFECT.
What is a “Conjunction”?
A conjunction is a sentence component that JOINS two clauses, two parts of a sentence.
Although it sounds complicated, actually it’s not since you already know and use dozens of conjunctions in daily life.
For example, every time you use AND you are using a conjunction.
Other examples: OR, NOR, YET, THEREFORE, BECAUSE, SO, WHEN, AFTER, BEFORE, SINCE, etc.
1) Sentences that start with a CAUSE and end with an EFFECT
“He studied hard for the SAT exam [CAUSE] and [CONJUNCTION] got a perfect 800 [EFFECT].”
“They trained hard [CAUSE] but [CONJUNCTION] they still lost the match [EFFECT].”
2) Sentences that start with an EFFECT and end with a CAUSE
“She has been unhappy [EFFECT] since [CONJUNCTION] she was assigned to this case [CAUSE].”
“We chose him [EFFECT] due to [CONJUNCTION] his MBA [CAUSE].”
3) Sentences that start with a CONJUNCTION
“Because [CONJUNCTION] of the severe weather alert [CAUSE], all flights have been cancelled [EFFECT].”
“Now that [CONJUNCTION] you’ve seen the evidence [CAUSE], I’m sure you can write a better report [EFFECT].”
Cause and Effect Paragraph
Writing a cause and effect paragraph is not that hard: you can either start by a cause and then explaining the effects; or the other way around – start with the effect and explain the causes.
Let’s examine these two different types of paragraphs one by one:
1) Paragraphs that start with a CAUSE
Let’s say you start your paragraph with “rising fertility rate in rural villages.” That’s a CAUSE.
What would be the effects? Let’s mention three:
Importance of Assumptions
Here as you can see the crucial component is the ASSUMPTION that agricultural productivity will remain the same. This is important because if the productivity goes up it can support a growing population and thus there won’t be any urban migration.
You start with a TOPIC SENTENCE which describes the CAUSE. Then you continue by listing the EFFECTS. Important thing is to make clear what your ASSUMPTIONS are including in your reasoning and mentioned very clearly.
“Fertility rate has risen 7% in Western XYZ between 1990-2010 [THE CAUSE].
One effect of this would be increased pressure on food resources, if we assume that the agricultural productivity remains the same [THE ASSUMPTION].
A second and related effect would be dropping standard of living in Western XYZ.
We should expect this to lead to an eventual migration to the cities in the region like La Capital [THE EFFECT].”
2) Paragraphs that start with an EFFECT
You start with a TOPIC SENTENCE which describes the EFFECT. Then you continue by listing the CAUSES. Important thing again is to make clear what your ASSUMPTIONS are.
“Those with a college degree are shown to earn a million dollars more over a lifetime than those who do not go to college at all [THE EFFECT].
One reason why this is so is the higher paying jobs available to college graduates [CAUSE 1].
Another reason is college graduates are more comfortable with high-technology which helps them start high-profit businesses [CAUSE 2].
Of course, we are here assuming that the two groups (college and non-college) start off their adult lives more or less from the similar socioeconomic backgrounds.”
As you can see, even though there is a structure to the way a cause-paragraph is written [TOPIC SENTENCE first, followed by supporting effect or cause sentences], there are no standard phrases or keywords that you need to use while writing them.
As a writer you should use your creativity and come up with the correct style to stitch together the cause and effect elements together as shown in the above examples.
© Ugur Akinci
A full-fledged doctoral program that focuses exclusively on technical writing and communication is still a rare bird out in the market today.
Here are the top 3 Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) programs in the United States on technical communication – the highest academic degree you can get as a technical writer and communicator.
1) Illinois Institute of Technology
Name of the degree: “Ph.D. in Technology and Humanities” (used to be called “Ph.D. in Technical Communication”)
This is not a practical hands-on program that prepares technical writers for the real world of technical writing out there. However, if you’d like to be an academic and do research and teaching in a university setting in the field of technical communication then this might be what you are looking for. It is a 72-hour program beyond the bachelor’s degree. Students who have earned a master’s degree in a relevant field may transfer up to 30 credit hours.
2) University of Minnesota
Name of the degree: “Ph.D. in Rhetoric and Scientific and Technical Communication (RSTC)”
This is also a research degree aimed at preparing technical writing students for faculty positions. It is not designed to prepare technical writers to work in government and private sector.
Ph.D. candidates must earn a minimum of 42 credits in coursework, at least 27 of which must be taken in Writing Studies classes and seminars.
For more info: http://writingstudies.umn.edu/grad/phd/
3) Texas Tech University
Name of the degree: “DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY IN TECHNICAL COMMUNICATION & RHETORIC”
The program provides a broad base to conduct research in technical editing, design, rhetorical theory, online documentation, publications management, and usability testing.
60 credit hours are needed to complete the program.
Click below to download the presentation slides in PDF format:
© Ugur Akinci
1) Create a FrameMaker (FM) file. Place your cursor in the first line of the file.
2) Select File > Import > File to browse to the Word document you’d like to import. The Import screen will display:
3) Select the “Import by Reference” and the Word file you want and click the Import button.
4) In the Unknown File Type dialog box, select “Microsoft Word 2007” and click the Convert button:
5) In the Import Text Flow by Reference dialog box, leave the default values alone and click the Import button once again. FM will import the Word content.
Here is the original Word content:
And here is its FM version, after the import:
It looks pretty good, correct?
Yet the looks can be deceiving since this not editable text converted into FM format yet. If you click the text in FM, the whole page will turn into an non-editable black image:
6) To convert the imported text, double click it to display the Text Inset Properties dialog box:
7) Click Convert to display another dialog box:
8) Click Convert once again and the imported text will be converted into editable FM content.
Is is easy in Excel to calculate the number of working days between two dates. Most, but not all businesses, operations or project activities and progress happen during weekdays. So, if you need to report and calculate the number of days that have elapsed between a start date and an end date of a project or project milestone for example then counting weekends in the calculation is not what you want to do, and you will need to avoid those days in your calculations. It is easy to do in Excel with the NETWORKDAYS function.
The formula NETWORKDAYS is pretty straightforward and has two required arguments or parts to it.
The syntax of the formula is
So, an example always helps when working through Excel formulas.
Below is the start date and end date of a short project. Start Date is in cell C4 and End Date is in D4.
The formula calculates the number of workdays (excluding Saturdays and Sundays which is the default), in this example it is 64 days.
So, this is a straightforward calculation automatically excluding Saturdays and Sundays, but some projects could and do include Saturdays, Sundays or even both.
Well of course Excel can handle this. In this instance we can use the NETWORKDAYS.INTL function.
The difference with this formula this is that it includes an extra argument or part, a weekend code, which allows us to specify which days to exclude as a weekend day or days. The syntax of this formula is
Let’s apply the same formula- but let’s assume we know our project work was active on Saturdays also. So, we need to ensure exclude any Saturdays from the calculation of days worked on our project
So, we need to select option 17 which is Saturday only. You can choose any of the options of 1 to 17 from the drop down menu. This now increases our work days to 77 days in the period 01/01/2015 to 31/03/2015 as Saturdays are now included as normal working days and should increase the number of days worked on our project. The number of days between the two dates now increases to 77 workdays.
The NEWTWORKDAYS and NETWORKDAYS.INTL are a useful couple of Functions to have in your Excel Tool Kit.
BJ Johnston has been an advanced Excel user for 15 years and is the creator of http://www.howtoexcelatexcel.com a site that shares Excel tips and tricks with it’s enthusiastic members.
“Proposal Planning and Writing for RFPs” is a 51-page (8.5” x 11”) comprehensive volume describing in over 10,000 words every aspect of responding to a government RFP (Request For Proposal).
This e-book even covers the questions that need to be asked to decide whether an RFP is the correct one, way before the prosal writers type the first word on their keyboards.
Government proposal writing is a fast changing field and thus RFP how-to guides need to be updated on a regular basis. This edition includes the latest developments and references in the field.
“Proposal Planning and Writing for RFPs” is researched, developed and written over a 6 month period with the following two groups of audiences in mind:
1) BUSINESS and TECHNICAL WRITERS assigned to write a proposal in response to an RFP. There is plenty in here to guide a writer from start to finish, including a detailed description of every component that a good proposal needs to have.
2) PROJECT MANAGERS whose jobs are much harder since not only they need to hire and direct the RFP writers, but they also must first evaluate if the RFP is actually the right one. If that research yields a positive result, then they need to shoulder the even more ardous task of putting together an RFP project team and driving the delicate process to its very end. This ebook also has chapters exclusively written for such project managers.
The main chapters are:
1) Introduction and Terminology
2) Six Set-Aside Programs (for small businesses)
3) Subcontracting facts
4) GSA Schedules
5) Focus on Selected Agencies and Resources
6) First Things First – the things you need to do to start the process
7) Questions to ask BEFORE you start to write your proposal
8) Questions to ask BEFORE you start to send out your proposal
9) Parts of the proposal
10) 5W + H Reality Check
11) Watch Out for the “Fishing Expeditions”
12) Step-by-Step Reply Process for RFP Managers
13) RESOURCES: U.S. Federal Procurement Web Sites (69 web sites)
14) RESOURCES: U.S. State & Local Procurement Web Sites (71 web sites)
Chapter 13 is a unique chapter: it describes a step-by-step development process for the proposal management team, starting with the assignment of responsibilities and selection of work teams all the way to writing the final draft and bringing the project to a successful conclusion.
The updated and alphabetized list of 140 federal and state procurement web sites in the resource chapters alone is worth the modest price of this comrehensive guide.
Those two chapters alone can save you untold hours of searching for the appropriate resources. Knowing where those web sites are important to find the right RFP or project bid. Now you have them all under your finger tips in two convenient lists.
“Proposal Planning and Writing for RFPs” is recommended for all business teams, project managers, business and technical writers, and all those who would like to get their share from the annual $500 billion U.S. federal procurement pie.
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