• All about the humanity of communication.

    All about the humanity of communication.

Dallas, Texas. The Society for Technical Communication (STC) announced today that certification for the technical communication field has been approved. Within the next year, technical communicators will be able to attain certification in their profession.

Certification creates two enormous benefits for our profession and for practitioners. First, certification establishes a sold foundation for the legitimacy and economic contribution of technical communication. Second, certified practitioners clearly demonstrate their expertise as technical communicators, greatly enhancing their value in the marketplace.

mauna-kea-shrinePractitioners become certified in six core competency areas:

  • User analysis
  • Document design
  • Project management
  • Authoring (content creation)
  • Delivery
  • Quality assurance

As a result, employers and clients alike will now have a concrete idea of the expertise, contribution, and value that technical communicators bring to the marketplace. STC is developing a page on its Web site dedicated to promoting certification and explaining the value of certified technical communicators.

Continue reading A Monumental Day Dawns for Technical Communicators: Certification!

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Ideas in business are crucial for success. But if you cannot fully express and communicate your ideas, you might as well quit thinking!

Effective communication is crucial for success in business — that is, attaining results by meeting objectives with and through other people.

Communication is vital to any human encounter.

painted-vasesWhen you communicate well, you clarify concepts and ideas. You are able to understand and work with the recipients of your message. You will also be able to inform, instruct, and persuade them to do what you want them to do, to achieve your desired results. In fact, the most effective communicators not only influence and persuade their audience to act in a specific way, but also these communicators convince their audience to do so.

Business communication can be full of specialized language, or jargon, that generally can only be understood by experts. Others inside a company and outside of a company do not inherently understand this jargon, even when they hear it all the time or even attempt to use it. Have you ever repeated jargon in a manner so that others might perceive that you understand it when, in reality, you don’t, at least not fully? If so, you are in good company. Most people only understand part of the jargon they use, especially acronyms. Therefore, it is incumbent on you to state things as simply as possible and to provide explanations and descriptions whenever possible so that everyone, the experts, the so-called experts, and those on the fringes, truly can comprehend your message.

Continue reading Communicating Effectively

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A plethora of Twitter tools can help.

I took a critical look at my Twitter stream the other day, and I was a bit dismayed at what I saw. By following too many people too quickly, I was being inundated with many irrelevant and useless tweets overwhelming the tweets that I truly wanted to read. In a larger sense, through hasty followings, I had deviated from my intended path for using Twitter in the first place.

red-craterHave you looked critically at your Twitter stream? Is it laden with the same sort of trite tweets that I receive? Apparently, we are not alone. After a bit of research, I discovered a recent study demonstrated that the vast majority of tweets—upwards of 87.7 percent—border on useless, falling between spam and “pointless babble”. That leaves only one out of every eight tweets actually containing valuable information. Who has the time to sort through that? I certainly don’t, and I suspect you don’t either. So what to do?

I blogged about this problem a while ago (www.solari.net/toward-humanity/2009/08/21/how-useful-is-your-twitter-stream/) and proposed a few solutions. I needed to go further, though, to rectify this problem. As a result, I discovered a number of Twitter tools that can help better manage a Twitter stream and your use of Twitter and social networks in general. I present the tools I most liked and found useful.

One small piece of semantics: when I refer to your friends; they are the people you are following on Twitter.

Continue reading Effectively Managing Twitter

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The many rewards of membership cause me to renew every year—for myself and my clients

Think of your life-changing moments. Rewarding, aren’t they? I had one in the spring of 1995 when two local technical writers asked me to join them and others to start the Vermont chapter of the Society for Technical Communication—STC. Sounds worthwhile. Sure, I’ll join.

the-rough-draftsAnd with that simple decision, I embarked on an incredible journey that has enhanced both my personal and professional life far beyond any heights that I could have imagined. To that, I am indebted to STC and its members.

Renewing my membership. I gain so much as an STC member, learning and applying an abundance of skills over these past fifteen years. My career has been enhanced, and my clients have benefited. Membership has opened new venues for me, some that I couldn’t possibly have envisioned. I simply cannot imagine being a professional technical communicator and not belonging to the one organization that supports and promotes that profession—STC.

This is a simple decision for me. I simply rejoin.

Continue reading The Value of STC

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The final installment of the tenets that enable you to sharpen your communication

As previous entries have discussed, your communication must focus on the needs of your audience (not on you). Understanding your audience and making sure they receive and act on the information in the manner you intended is paramount to effective communication. Toward this end, we continue our discussion of the ten tenets of effective communication, focusing on the last four tenets:

westminster-abbey-figures

  • Correct
  • Timely
  • Well designed
  • And it builds goodwill too

Correct. A correct document complies with the basic rules of writing: grammar, punctuation, mechanics, spelling, word order and usage, and sentence structure. Incorrect writing slows readers and confuses them.

Given too many of these kinds of errors, readers begin to question the validity and accuracy of your writing, and wonder if you were also this careless in researching, analyzing, and presenting your findings. Readers begin to doubt your professionalism, which in turn compromises your arguments, conclusions, and recommendations.

There are dozens of books on the basics of writing. Find one you like, keep it nearby, and refer to it often.

Continue reading The Ten Tenets of Effective Communication (Part 3 of 3)

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You can create enduring relationships with your readers when you adhere to these tenets

To be most effective, your communication must focus on the needs of your audience. When you write, understand your audience, and make sure they will receive and act on the information in the manner you intended. Toward this end, we continue our discussion of the ten tenets of effective communication, focusing on the next four tenets:

olomana-third-peak

  • Accurate
  • Comprehensive
  • Accessible
  • Concise

Accurate. Get your facts straight. Even the slightest inaccuracy subjugates believability and can bring the contents of an entire document into question.

Inaccuracies can annoy and perplex an audience, especially when they know otherwise. And keep your own biases at bay when citing facts; remain objective. Compelling information presented accurately can still raise eyebrows; there is no need to overstate.

An occasional misstated fact can be tolerated, but attention to detail in this all important area is well worth the effort. The little bit of extra research that corrects a distortion goes a long way toward creating authoritative communication.

In a presentation, I once used the quote “Never miss an opportunity to keep your mouth shut”, which had been attributed to author Robert Newton Peck. When I called him to verify this attribution, Mr Peck set the record straight. He told me, “Samuel Johnson said that.”

Accuracy is ethical.

Continue reading The Ten Tenets of Effective Communication (Part 2 of 3)

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Both you and your audience benefit when your communication adheres to these tenets

Effective communication is about connecting with your audience. It’s about your audience getting your message as you intended. It begins with understanding who your audience is and how they can best ‘hear’ your message, then using this information to craft and deliver your message. This is simply another way of saying that your message, whether written, verbal, or visual, must be audience-centered—focused around the needs of your audience. Put yet another way, communication is less about you and all about them.

Effective communication is simple and clear, focuses around a single idea, and ultimately achieves the results you desire.

columnsTo be most effective, your communication must adhere to these ten tenets. Effective communication is:

  • Honest,
  • Clear,
  • Accurate,
  • Comprehensive,
  • Accessible,
  • Concise,
  • Correct,
  • Timely, and
  • Well designed.
  • It builds goodwill too.

Let’s start with a discussion of the first two and then continue with the remaining eight over my next two blog entries.

Continue reading The Ten Tenets of Effective Communication (Part 1 of 3)

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From lost relationships to steep financial penalties, the price of poor communication is high

Poor communication costs business millions of dollars every single day. Most executives and managers understand this, yet they don’t realize how big a part they play in this miscommunication.

cemetary-stonesFinancial statements do not carry a line item for poor communication, although they should since, with a little effort, it can quickly be quantified.

Communication is vital to the success of your organization. To be most effective, communication must circulate and reach all levels, not just the core.

Different forms of poor communication. Here are but a few:

  • Long, unproductive, numbing meetings without a clear purpose or agenda, often reaching no conclusions, result in lost productivity as well as the collective time of everyone attending.
  • Poor documentation neglects to mention the purpose of the software or hardware and only explains how it works. Users, however, don’t care how it works; they want to know how to use it!
  • Uninspired selling skills and anemic sales presentations showing no interest or understanding of a prospect’s needs, result in missed opportunities and lost sales.

Continue reading The Costs of Poor Communication

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An ironic approach to purposeful writing.

Being a writer, I follow a fairly strict process when writing—the same process that I preach about when teaching clients how to write: Pre-writing: planning and drafting; Reviewing: rewriting and revising; and Finishing: editing, applying mechanics, and formatting.

I’ve taught this process to many people (including my children). After all, there is a very good reason: it works!

tyler-kaena-point-rainbowThe Pre-writing phase allows you to identify who you are writing for (your audience) and what you want to say to them; to identify the purpose of your writing, to determine the points you want to make and enumerate them; to begin drafting your ideas based on these points to get your thoughts on paper without restriction. This is where the bulk of your writing can take place.

The Reviewing phase enables you to clarify your draft: to embellish your words, to add more details, to tighten up your text, to clear up any ambiguities, to sequence thoughts better, to ensure your text speaks to your purpose, to delete anything that runs astray, to cut off tangents, to sharpen.

The Finishing phase is where you edit: to employ better words, to fix grammatical infractions, to correct mechanical errors, to change punctuation, to format for clarity and understanding.

Imagine my consternation, then—with a bit of a smile—when I received the following analysis of the process my son employs for writing papers (including email and IM) at university. In his own words…

Continue reading Writing 201: Analyzing the Writing Process

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True listening engages not only your ears and mind, but also your eyes and heart

An update: Solari is currently working with two clients, helping them with audience analysis, interviewing, writing, and presentation skills. It struck me — again — how much listening plays a critical part in communication. So, even though we published this position paper of listening a while ago, it bears reiterating. Enjoy.

True listening encompasses all there is about effective listening, and augments professional discourse with a human touch. Effective listening hears the words; true listening hears the person. Effective listening employs your ears and mind; true listening engages your eyes and heart. Effective listening understands the message; true listening transcends the message and gains profound insight.

still-more-floraTaken together, effective listening and true listening deeply enhance your relationships.

True listening means seeing beyond the words, engendering trust, and establishing an emotional personal connection.

See beyond the words. The nonverbal part of communication often expresses more than the actual words themselves. To truly listen, engage all your senses.

As you hear someone talk and begin to understand the concept, look for the emotion, passion, and feeling of the words to truly understand the depth of the message. Instead of just asking questions to better comprehend, recognize and articulate these emotions and feelings. Many times the person talking doesn’t even realize how emotionally involved they are.

Continue reading How to Truly Listen

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