IPhone and iPod Touch apps for creating and editing business documents have surged to the top ranks of the App Store’s popularity charts. This is good news for freelance writers who work in the field and who like to travel light.
Over the course of the next few entries I’ll be reporting on my field tests of some of my favorite apps. These won’t be full-blown reviews, but rather brief and complementary summaries of the highlights (and lowlights) of each app that revealed themselves while I put them through their paces.
First up is the long-anticipated DataViz Documents to Go for the iPhone app.
Continue reading “field report: documents to go for iphone (updated for 1.1)”
On an automobile assembly line, you wouldn’t wait until after you’ve installed all the interior paneling and trim to put in the side windows. When it comes to editing your reports, white papers, instruction manuals, and other important documents, are you doing the equivalent?
Freelance editors are used to talking with potential clients who think that proofreading a document means giving it a thorough syntactic overhaul, and that copyediting covers the writing and insertion of a whole new section of text. Most of us are not averse to taking on projects that cross definitional boundaries, but we do try to make sure the client understands the differences.
“Who cares?” some will interrupt. “Editing is editing, right?”
Editors define the types of editing differently not because we’re trying to be split hairs but because we understand that each one should be performed at its own particular stage of the document preparation process — putting the windows in while you’re still assembling the doors, so to speak. Performing the wrong kind of editing at the wrong stage in the production process can derail the whole process.
Use this editing sequence to keep your document assembly line moving.
Continue reading “what kind of editing do i need?”
This morning I received an e-mail with the subject line “Job on Computer in July,” from an unfamiliar name. I’m used to receiving cold-call e-mails from prospective clients, so I opened it up and took a look:
We offer a part time job on your computer.
We will provide you with the texts and you will correct the texts as an english speaking person and send them back to us. Just correct grammar and spell mistakes, nothing else.
Ah, a work-at-home scam. Of course. I get plenty of those. Just out of curiosity, I kept reading to see how much they pay — assuming they do pay.
Oh, they pay, all right . . .
Continue reading “cheap as free”
In the course of designing and testing hPDA templates, I have found that many of the people who organize their planners also follow a productivity methodology such as David Allen’s popular Getting Things Done (GTD) system.
As a freelance writer and editor, I understand the importance of good workflow management, so I looked into GTD and other popular methodologies. To my surprise, none of them felt like a good match with my style.
Curious about why, I took a serious look at how I manage my own workflow. What was different? What was similar? The answers that I found were personally illuminating. They also offer interesting possibilities for other freelancers too.
Continue reading “goal-oriented productivity”
New Year’s Day is the traditional time for resolutions to take effect. Have you made writing and editorial resolutions for your business yet?
If not, then here are some helpful suggestions from the Active Voice blog . . . Continue reading “make your writing resolutions”
Journalist Xeni Jardin recently discussed the perils of storing and deleting government e-mail on her weekly NPR spot, XeniTech. Prompted by the recent controversial decision by the District of Columbia government to purge all e-mails every six months, Jardin presented a brief overview of the complex issue of electronic records retention.
Unintentionally, Jardin’s piece highlights and perpetuates some of the most common misconceptions about the nature of records management in the information age. Let’s take a look:
Continue reading “three common misconceptions about e-mail”
This afternoon I e-mailed a client, the editor of a bimonthly national magazine, with an update on an article I’m writing for her. She promptly wrote back to thank me, and also to let me that she’s been receiving many compliments on another article that I wrote that is about to go to press. “I SO appreciate your valuable contribution to [the magazine],” she wrote. “And I haven’t forgotten that you would like to do more.”
Not surprisingly, for this editor I am willing to walk through fire.
Continue reading “getting to “thanks” #2: the power of appreciation”
The most successful companies bring their technical writers into the loop at the outset of a project, according to a new study by the Aberdeen Group. Back in February, I blogged about the importance of including writers from the earliest stages of a project; it’s good to see that there is evidence to bear out my contention of the writer’s added value.
According to the Society for Technical Communication, the study, which was co-sponsored by STC, the UK-based Institute of Scientific and Technical Communicators, and the Center for Information-Development Management, that finding was among the most important results of an online survey of over 300 companies.
The study report, The Next-Generation Product Documentation Report: Getting Past the “Throw it over the Wall” Approach by Chad Jackson and Mehul Shah, looked at five key performance indicators:
- product launch date
- documentation cost
- translation cost
- documentation purpose
- documentation quality
Nearly three-quarters of the respondent companies that scored highest on these five indicators reported that they launched their documentation and product development processes simultaneously. According to the study, top-ranking companies were also likely to:
- integrate the documentation staff into the engineering department;
- rely on document authoring tools that facilitate content repurposing;
- use software to minimize content localization lags; and
- measure readability by tracking content resue.
Managers, the results are in: keep your friends close, but keep your technical writers closer.
You know the drill. The meeting is in the small conference room at the far end of some cheap airport hotel. Inside, there’s nothing to sustain you until lunch but tepid coffee and stale cheese danish dusted with spilled non-dairy creamer. Yet, for some reason, instead of bonding over a shared fate, the participants quickly divide into two camps — the experts and the interlopers.
A SME chuckles about “you English majors.” Your publications manager mutters something about “those knuckle-draggers.” And that’s just the morning of the first day.
Whether you write instructional textbooks, online help content, user guides, or even feature articles, as a technical writer you rely on the people who know the topic better than anyone else — subject matter experts, or SMEs. Likewise, SMEs rely on you to interpret and translate their information, to present it clearly and accurately, and to make it easy for the reader to understand and follow.
Nevertheless, writers and SMEs often have difficulty establishing a collaborative relationship, and the resulting friction only hurts the final product.
Like it or not, it’s up to you to establish a good working relationship with your SMEs right from the start. Here’s how:
Continue reading “quick tips for working with SMEs”
Over on The Copywriter Underground (which should be part of every freelance writer’s complete nutritious breakfast), Tom Chandler reminds us about the importance of client feedback.
And we’re not talking about editorial comments before going to press — we’re talking about taking a hard look at the effectiveness of the piece once it’s published. Did your advertising copy bring in new customers? Did your feature article generate letters to the editor? Did people find your report to be informative and useful? And how can you find out?
Continue reading “followup: the other half of the equation”