design & typography production & publishing

A blogoversary sparks a makeover

My starter project, Shorter Documents, turned three years old this month. To celebrate I give it a makeover. Why a makeover? Self-paced publishing is fun until mechanical glitches hit — links break, colours fade, tags need tuning.

What stays, what goes

The vision stays — write commentary about technical writing. What began as a collection of anecdotes grows by the week. Still, I’m keeping it short — in scale and name. Oh, and the blog naming thing? That toys with my height.

A grand redesign takes shape

I approached this makeover in three stages and imposed a one week deadline to get it done. Here’s what I did.

First, deal with data. Analyze categories and tags for duplicates, relevance and one-offs. Control categories using 7 ∓ 2 rule. Manage tags as subcategories or rethink tagging later.

Next, deal with content. Observe how headings breathe, text flows (around images), tables break. Test links, image enlargement, media playback and revise postings that uncover these problems. Pause to assess effort and roadblocks before deciding whether to tweak your template or swap it for something newer.

slide-o-matic home
slide-o-matic home May 2008

Preview, preview, preview. Hunt for the perfect WordPress theme. There are thousands to choose from so look for functionally that fits. How many columns do you need? Choosing the right grid system is like choosing the right sized stock pot. Leave enough room to add your own rhythm and spice. Voilà! Your data and content are remixed.

Koi home
Koi home May 2011

Counting down to the fourth blog anniversary.

language & style

Welcome World

Typically before a hockey game you’ll see transit buses destined for “Go Canucks Go”. In the run up to the 2010 Winter Olympics buses changed the route to “Welcome World”.

'Go Canucks Go' route in Vancouver
alternate route

Canada did a pretty good job getting the word out worldwide. With Olympic-size crowds to be welcomed, businesses and schools flexed their hours and some locals left town.

The blue and green, sea and sky motif is the theme of Vancouver 2010. The signage is as familiar as an umbrella – just totally unexpected a half a world away.

But there at the Canadian Embassy in Hanoi was the familiar signage, welcoming visitors like me.

Stop the bus!

Vancouver 2010 signage - Canadian Embassy - Hanoi
Vancouver 2010 signage in Asia
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.

writing & editing


It’s been a month of celebrations–Obama’s inauguration, Chinese New Year and  reason to hope for economic improvement.

After taking a time out after summer 2008 I started a program to become a Canadian immigration consultant. My own immigration experience was straightforward and so I thought I could help others wanting to move here.

Facing the Fork

I am a baby-boomer so I don’t have a long timeline to do over a career. My biggest asset is my ability to make a living but the 2008 economic downturn affected me.

What I know about occupations in general is that they fall into three categories: people, things, and ideas. They’re all in the mix for technical communicators. Immigration consulting is knowing about policies, procedures, and intercultural communication.

What about technical communication? I still want to continue doing technical writing. It’s been my occupation for 20 years and my passion. I figured out the parts of technical writing I like. While I’m not that geeky, I do like the ‘wordie’ aspect.

It all comes together in a program called Immigration Law Policies and Procedures offered through the Intercultural Communications department at University of British Columbia. I’m fascinated to hear about others’ journey to Canada — not just for a better job or for family reunification but also for a safe destination. Of my 60 classmates everyone appears motivated to learn the rules and regulations in order to help loved ones land safely.

My experience with immigration is only first-hand and it was a smooth transition thanks to a great lawyer and a patient husband. We’re eligible to apply for citizenship this year so for anyone still wondering whether we’re moving back to the U.S., nope.

"Happy New Year!"
"Gung Hay Fat Choy!"