authors & audience

The Stanley Cup, unedited

Ice hockey’s top prize is presented to players on the winning team. The quest for every NHL team is to win the Stanley Cup championship, then to have your name inscribed among the greatest names. Some 2,163 names of players and staff decorate the cup.

Scotiabank Hockey Day in Canada

photo by John Biehler

Inscriptions and bits of human error

As for naming… There’s hockey hall of famer Bob “GAINY” instead of Gainey. I sympathize with misspelled names. But misspelled teams? How is it possible to slip up TORONTO MAPLE LEAES? BQSTQN BRUINS? NEW YORK ILANDERS? Perhaps someone jotted down Long Island’s team but c’mon, that’s not the paper scrap to give to the engraver. So much for knowing your subject matter!

As for consistency… Call yourself lucky to be named more than once. Count ’em, five variations on Jacques Plante and Dickie Moore. So much for style guidance!

As for corrections… On the trophy? Why the name of a player’s father made it on the cup is an odd problem. But how the mistake was amended is beyond ugly. What’s left of ‘Dad’ is a row of pretty Xs. So much for the first draft.

As for care and feeding… This cup is handled with gloves. This cup has a vault. This cup looks nothing like the bowl Lord Stanley awarded a century ago. Despite its amusing flaws the Stanley Cup remains a gleaming thing to be hoisted.

authors & audience grammar & speech

Pomp and circumstance

<Insert your institute of higher learning here.>

A commencement speaker

Commencement speakers are honoured and humbled to be here this day. Gathered guests are thanked for their supporting role. The speaker fervently relates the mechanism by which she/he overcame personal obstacles (while you ponder your own not-so-different circumstance). The encouraging family member, insightful teacher, and/or divine being are acknowledged. Family and friends couldn’t be more proud. The day is filled with photos, embraces and unbridled optimism.

All graduations are pretty much the same – cheering sections, flowers, unpredictable weather, caps and gowns.

On this day we repeatedly tell grads to believe they can do anything they set their sights on. But belief is not enough. We must also remind them to have a plan to make it so.

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.