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
lists & tables

Professional programs compared

Hello, my name is Spring!

I’ve resurfaced, finally, after completing a long contract. Now there are IOU lunches to plan and vacation photos to edit, and after criss-crossing Canada, it’s a must-do to get back into the swing of professional development.

They say to carry a pocketful of business cards and memorize your elevator pitch. You just never know what can become of a networking opportunity. This week I scored four professional events happening in downtown Vancouver. It’s always instructive to observe, even better to hone the pitch, and totally awesome when your card is pulled for a door prize.

Offerings Agile Vancouver Editors’ Association of Canada International Association of Business Communicators STC Canada West Coast
Event Name Domain Driven Design Practices Plain Language Certification How to Network Effectively H.A.T. Tricks
Presenter Eric Evans, author Domain-Driven Design, Addison-Wesley 2004, thought leader in software design and domain modeling Katherine McManus, Director of SFU Writing & Communications Program Karen Lee, IABC Canada – Master Communicator, teaches for the University of Victoria in the Public Relations diploma program Neil Perlin, internationally-known online content consultant
Date March 18, 2013 March 20, 2013 March 21, 2013 March 19, 2013
Time 6:00-9:00 pm 7:00-9:00 pm 5:30-7:00 pm 6:00-8:30 pm
Topic Exploring and Distilling the Core Domain: An Anonymized Case Study SFU’s role in grant-funded project to launch international certification in plain language Industry expert advises how to effectively network your way through an event Overview of help authoring tools and history
Format Standup presentation, slides Standup presentation, slides, voice recorded, photographed Instructor led presentation (no slides) and networking practice Webinar, remote presentation
Networking Before and after Pre meeting dinner, before and after Before and after, and during as an activity Before and after
Venue Renaissance Harbourside Hotel YWCA Harbour Centre, SFU YWCA
Freebies Coffee and tea Door prizes, fruit, homemade cookies Door prizes, donuts, juice Tea, cookies, grapes
Registration Online thru Eventbrite, at door Online, at door Online, at door, by phone Online, at door
Seats Filled 80 33 20 12 (+9 remote)
Member $10 $0 $0 $5
Non-member $10 $10 $10 $20
lists & tables tech light

A sorted mess

Imagine you are searching through job postings. You’ve got a list and now you opt to sort by date, or location or other relevant category. Each column can be sorted. Typical options are some kind of logical progression. A job seeker might sort jobs to list the newest ones first.

I recently saw a job listing whose sort routine made sense only in theory. In practice, the result was neither sorted nor logical. However you sorted it, the list was a sorted mess.

Here’s what the date sort looked like:


Here’s a rule to break; don’t sort dates numerically or alphabetically. Who cares about a group of jobs that were posted on the 27th of every month. Not useful. In the context of a job posting, a date must be sorted chronologically.

lists & tables tech light

Breaking tables and other nondestructive tips

Broken tables. Frozen panes. Split screens. This is not debris from a crime spree. These are names of techniques used to manage documents.

To carry forward the heading of a table that’s flowed on to the next page, apply the word processing command to repeat the table heading.

Similarly, to cement the heading of a spreadsheet row and still be able to read row 100, apply the spreadsheet command to freeze rows.

Moving right along, to view and compare two areas of the same document, use the split screen tool.

And finally, to prevent someone else from messing with your workbook, use protection.

I’m not making up these names.

design & typography lists & tables

Housekeeping–a starter kit

There’s this little detail about housekeeping called TMI. Too much information goes something like this. Master the art of potato peeling in the following three ways.

  • slicing
  • dicing
  • grating

And that list is fine until you append fourth and fifth ways to skin a spud. Now you, or more likely someone else, will have to update “three” to another number. The person inheriting the list becomes responsible for TMI. Good housekeeping avoids referring to a finite number.

Speaking of finite items, once there were nine, now there are eight planets. That housekeeping detail was massive, very necessary, and had to be updated everywhere immediately.