authors & audience design & typography writing & editing

Tech pubs compete

blue ribbonNow that the international technical publications competition has wrapped up it’s time to prepare for the next one. Reasons to submit an entry are numerous but mainly it’s for authors to receive a peer-reviewed evaluation. Teams of evaluators independently complete a multipoint checklist.

Areas covered

  • Content and organization—does it cover the main points, meet the purpose?
  • Copy editing—is it error-free, informative and appropriate for the audience?
  • Graphics—do they illustrate concepts?
  • Production—does it project a professional image?
  • Visual design—does it appeal, are elements integrated?

Handling flaws

Any weak areas are further evaluated. A major flaw substantially hinders the user, whereas a minor flaw might cause a momentary stumble, but doesn’t slow down the user much.

  • Major flaw examples: illogical organization; incomplete or missing content; consistently unclear style; no table of contents, headers, page numbers, or index; inaccurate page numbers in table of contents or index; procedural steps buried in text; a consistent pattern of spelling and grammatical errors; confusing terminology, difficult navigation, poor visual quality.
  • Minor flaw examples: a few instances of spelling and grammatical errors, misplaced graphics, inconsistent capitalization, or confusing terminology.

Award levels

  • Distinction — a work that is clearly superior in all areas. No major flaws and few, if any, minor flaws. The work applies principles of technical communication in an outstanding way, anticipates and fulfills audience needs.
  • Excellence — a work that consistently meets high standards in all areas. Clearly (if slightly imperfectly) demonstrates exceptional understanding of technical communication principles.
  • Merit — a work that consistently meets high standards in most areas. Applies technical communication principles in a highly proficient manner.

The two parts of a judging competition are the entries and the judges. Competition participation begins at your local chapter of the Society for Technical Communication.

By Pam Drucker

Documentation specialist, procedures writer

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