lists & tables terms & abbreviations

Buried alive: the markings of subterranean infrastructure

Maybe you’ve noticed paint marks sprayed on pavement. If it’s not a style of graffiti chances are you’re looking at code for a buried utility line.

utility lines
public utility lines

Depending on the colour paint, the unseen conduit could be carrying sewage or drinking water. How do you know which? Well, it turns out, excavators know which lines lay beneath. There’s an international colour code for utility markings. (ANSI Standard Z53.1) Learning industry codes, parts and processes make for another interesting day in the field of tech writing.

American Public Works Association color code
American Public Works Association color code
terms & abbreviations

Holidays & Observances

Canadian poppy
Today, we paused to remember those who served. My father who served in WWII called it Armistice Day long after the US renamed it Veterans Day.

He’d fasten the poppy’s wire stem through a buttonhole. By December the poppy hung like mistletoe from the Ford’s rear view mirror.

Nations render their own design of the poppy pin. At last week’s meeting on the European debt crisis, we saw leafed and non-leafed variations adorn lapels of heads of state.

Remembrance Day, has now passed. Yet we vow to never forget.

tech light terms & abbreviations

Industry taxonomy

Here’s a sampling of ways systems classify technical writers. It’s useful if you’re searching for industry information, exploring careers, comparing skills, or immigrating.

North American Industrial Classification System

Used in the U.S., Canada and Mexico to describe economic activity. NAICS classification for Arts, Entertainment, and Recreation breaks down this way:

  • 71 – Arts, Entertainment, and Recreation
  • 711 – Performing Arts, Spectator Sports, and Related Industries
  • 7115 – Independent Artists, Writers, and Performers
  • 71151040 – Technical Writing
  • 71151027 – Technical Manual Preparation

National Occupational Classification system

Used in Canada to describe occupational structure by skill type. NOC classification for occupations in Art, Culture, Recreation and Sport breaks down this way:

  • 5 – Occupations in Art, Culture, Recreation and Sport
  • 51 – Professional Occupations in Art and Culture
  • 512 – Writing, Translating and Public Relations Professionals
  • 5121 – Authors and Writers
  • 5122 – Editors
  • 5123 – Journalists
  • 5124 – Public Relations and Communications
  • 5125 – Translators, Terminologists and Interpreters

International Standard Industrial Classification

The United Nations lists national classifications for activities and products. The ISIC classification for Arts, Entertainment and Recreation breaks down this way:

  • Section: R – Arts, entertainment and recreation
  • Division: 90 – Creative, arts and entertainment activities
  • Group: 900 – Creative, arts and entertainment activities
  • Class: 9000 – Creative, arts and entertainment activities

This class includes activities of:
· individual artists such as authors, lecturers or speakers
· individual writers, for all subjects including fictional writing, technical writing
· independent journalists

Global Industry Classification Standard

Used in finance and market research. GICS classification for Information Technology breaks down this way:

  • 45 – Information Technology
  • 4510 – Software & Services
  • 4520 – Technology Hardware & Equipment
  • 4530 – Semiconductors & Semiconductor Equipment

Standard Industrial Classification Codes

Established in 1937 and still used by some programs at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission until NAICS is fully implemented. SIC classification for Services breaks down this way:

  • 70 to 89 – Services
  • 8900 – Miscellaneous Services NEC
  • 899935 – Technical Writing
  • 899906 – Technical Manual Preparation
  • 899903 – Proposal Writers
  • 899903 – Writers
  • 899913 – Editorial Services
terms & abbreviations

Daylight saving

It’s that time again. Time to skip east by one time zone in search of saving daylight hours. Alaska (daylight) Time becomes British Columbia’s Pacific (standard) Time. Each successive time zone changes the clock by one hour, until Newfoundland Time.

Here, it’s offset by a half hour. So neighbouring Atlantic Time broadcasters tell listeners to stay tuned for the news at 6:00, 6:30 in Newfoundland.

Funny thing about time zones, when you include all the offsets like Newfoundland Time, the zones add up to more than 24 – and that’s a lot of daylight hours partially saved.

time zones
time zones
grammar & speech terms & abbreviations

Happy 2,010!

unmarked calendar
a new decade

Happy new year, and now the great debate begins… How to say the next decade. Words from the last decade got sorted out. It wasn’t the more familiar sounding “nine-one-one” that stuck but rather “nine-eleven”. I don’t recall a debate about calling the  2000-2009 period the ‘oughts’.  Is that even how you say it?

Two things are for certain; the year 2000 happened with nary a Y2K glitch, and the XXI Olympic Winter Games are called the 2010 Winter Olympics. Psst, just say ‘twenty-ten’ and everyone will catch on.

terms & abbreviations

OMG! Badger State tourism up

Last month I ragged on South Carolina. Today it’s Wisconsin’s turn. Lots of free advertising boosted the Badger State’s tourism industry last year. Apparently, the abbreviation of Wisconsin state’s tourism group had been interjected into lots of text messages. So why are they changing their name?

Wisconsin Tourism Federation

Wisconsin Tourism Federation

Speaking of ragging, shouldn’t abbreviations be gender-tested, especially when begotten from IT? Some years ago I had to break it to an engineer that his acronym for a Product Management System was already taken. Yup, the PMS.


grammar & speech terms & abbreviations

Immigration, grammar, and a side of cheese

Here’s a current events topic that combines my interests in immigration and grammar. Earlier this month the New York Times published an article on how the Supreme Court justices came to rule unanimously from different interpretations. It’s timely because today the President announced his first choice for the Court.

So this case protects illegal workers who use fake IDs to get jobs but denies protection when the same workers knowingly use the same IDs to commit other crimes.

The government argued that the “knowingly” requirement applied only to the verbs in question. Justice Breyer rejected that interpretation, saying that “it seems natural to read the statute’s word ‘knowingly’ as applying to all the subsequently listed elements of the crime.”

And this is the part I like–where Justice Breyer cites examples from everyday life. “If we say that someone knowingly ate a sandwich with cheese, we normally assume that the person knew both that he was eating a sandwich and that it contained cheese.”…

Justice Breyer said the case should be decided by applying “ordinary English grammar.” Let’s see if “ordinary English” is overheard during the confirmation hearing.

Copyright The New York Times, May 4, 2009
Justices Limit Use of Identity Theft Law in Immigration Cases

language & style terms & abbreviations

English as a second language

The Immigration and Refugee Protection Act is legislation respecting immigration to Canada and granting refugee protection to persons who are displaced, persecuted or in danger.

The term “foreign national” refers to any person other than a Canadian citizen or permanent resident. Oddly, the word “immigrant” doesn’t appear in the Act.

I was happy to read that the 2001 Act used simpler language and fewer cross-references. However, I had to chew on a 112-word clause before it made any sense.

Sole provincial responsibility — appeals
If a federal-provincial agreement gives a province sole responsibility to establish and apply financial criteria with respect to undertakings that sponsors living in that province may make in respect of a foreign national who applies to become a permanent resident, then, unless the agreement provides otherwise, the existence of a right of appeal under the law of that province respecting rejections by provincial officials of applications for sponsorship, for reasons of failing to meet financial criteria or failing to comply with a prior undertaking, prevents the sponsor, except on humanitarian and compassionate grounds, from appealing under this Act against a refusal, based on those reasons, of a visa or permanent resident status.

My take on sole provincial responsibility appeals is this:

The province can impose financial responsibility on the sponsor of a foreign national, and if refused for financial reasons the sponsor can appeal to the province or apply under the Act for a humanitarian and compassionate exception.

My hat goes off to ESL classmates who had to deal with breaking down and making sense of this provision.

language & style terms & abbreviations

The wisdom of skipping an exam you’re going to fail

the boss will see you now

Clip art licensed from the Clip Art Gallery on

Recently, Vancouver awoke to news that centered on obscure legal terms. The media spent the next news cycle explaining prorogue and in camera.

Oh to be a fly on the wall during the conversation between the Governor-General and the Prime Minister whose request was granted to suspend, or prorogue, Parliament rather than face a vote of no confidence. Over 300 comments accompany the prorogue article in The Globe and Mail.

One wonders why politicians meet privately. Our city councilors did just that to approve $100-million for completing the 2010 Olympic Athletes Village. Word leaked and days later taxpayers voted in a different council.