My Word template manifesto

TEMPLATES

For reasons that continue to elude me, I’ve come across a lot of Microsoft Word template issues in my time. Some templates were so bad that what should be a simple productivity tool ends up hobbling documentation efforts. Finding template issues is a never-ending source of disappointment for me. Perhaps it’s because I usually create templates in the early stages of a project and keep the fuss to a minimum.

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Lessons learned from working as a computer book industry technical reviewer

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I was a computer book technical reviewer earlier in my career. It was a freelance gig, but I still consider the work one of the more formative chapters in my professional writing career even though it wasn’t writing work.

Computer book technical reviewers sometimes called technical editors are responsible for ensuring the technical accuracy of information technology book manuscripts. The work taught me to pay attention to technical details, which in turn went on to influence my work as a technical writer and freelance writer.

The lessons I learned include:

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The gentle art of project documentation control

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Managing project documents can be an underappreciated art in some organizations. It’s an area where a technical writer should take charge. I’ve seen document control of all stripes throughout my career. Document control that works. Document control that didn’t work. Even document control that caused a near staff rebellion. I’ve even seen no formal document control practices.
While compliance programs like COSO and Sarbanes Oxley require document control over project documents, it also makes good business sense.
Here are some tips for implementing document control within your project team or organization:

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4 reasons why your document reviews aren’t working

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I’ve long been a student of technical document reviews. So much so, I worked as a technical reviewer for some computer book publishers to learn more about this critical element of the technical communications. Back then I thought I could do a better job than the reviewers where I was working at the time). Editorial and technical reviews are integral parts of the technical publications process. Unfortunately, so many organizations fumble through the review cycle.

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5 ways teams can recover from a failed or stalled writing project

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It’s never fun watching a technical documentation, training development, or other writing projects get off to a false start or just downright fail. It can be a real morale blow and expose the writer(s) and their team to criticism from stakeholders. However, failures do happen, and it is best to do what you can to recover from quickly.

Writing projects can fail or stall for a myriad of reasons including poor planning, course changes in the project plan, and other risks that may or not be accounted for in the overall project plan.

Here are five ways to get past a failed or stalled writing project:

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6 ways to sabotage your technical documentation

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Every job hunt and even unsolicited discussions with recruiters during the past few years brought me more tales of organizations continuing to have issues producing and maintaining technical documentation. It is not isolated in one sector, and I keep hearing the same problems repeatedly. This has been a real disappointment for me over the years I was a contract technical writer and now that I have a staff technical writer job.
 
Developing technical documentation isn’t fun. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be such an afterthought. Things aren’t made any easier with a technical writing profession that is fragmented on the actual role of the technical writer.
 
Here are some ways organizations sabotage their technical documentation:
 

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A few words about Microsoft Word and Track Changes

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One of the most useful – yet potentially embarrassing – features of Microsoft Word is Track Changes. Using the Track Changes feature lets you electronically markup your Word documents with edits, additions, and revisions. Think of it as an electronic red pen so to speak.

The potential embarrassment of the feature comes in when you don’t accept the Track Changes. Comments, edits, and revisions not fit for public consumption can leak out. Even if none of the comments are critical, it is just plain sloppy to have a recipient open up a document that still contains markups.

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