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Achilles’ heel: A weak or vulnerable factor. From the legend of Greek hero Achilles, who had one vulnerable part of his body, his heel. As an infant, his mother had held him by one heel to dip him in the River Styx to make him invulnerable.

Wordsmith: A word expert who uses language very well

Wordsmith with an Achilles’ heel: Someone who has to check yet again if well or good is the correct word to use in the previous definition

Take a look at what Shenouda employee Donna Muldoon learned from a recent informal and unscientific study of colleagues and their Achilles’ heels.

The rules, they are a changing

In the survey, colleagues noted that once-standard rules have changed, making it necessary to research and confirm they are using the most recent format. For example, some businesses are still unaware that double spaces after a period or full stop are no longer the standard. A change that is more jarring for those who focus on grammar is the more recent revision to the singular subject and plural verb agreement format. It is now common to see variations of “Each owner should have their own copy of the lease.” Through use, and supported by guides such as the APA Style Blog, the new format is becoming acceptable.

A little bit of this, a little bit of that

Even wordsmiths who adeptly manage sentence structure sometimes hesitate when it comes to basic English grammar issues. Writers in the survey gave examples that cause them to rethink what they wrote. Is it that or which? Alternative or alternate? Since or because? On site or on-site or onsite? More than one writer found it necessary to look up when compound adjectives or prefixes take a hyphen. Some writers keep their own customized reference sheet to solve nagging, recurring wordsmithing questions.

While good spelling is common among writers and editors, specific words were an Achilles’ heel nevertheless. Condolences tripped up one writer, license another. An editor who often reviewed documents in both American and British English, would begin to lose focus on which version of fulfill/fulfil, practice/practise, aging/ageing, or program/programme to use. There was also a tendency among writers to watch for repetitive use of certain words, such as so or but. A technical writer who wrote with a controlled language that specified words could only be used in their approved category of noun, verb, or adjective found difficulty writing more creative, less restrictive marketing content. Read More

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Over many years, all of us at Shenouda Associates Inc. have researched, written, edited, and published hundreds (maybe even more) of works both large and small. For us, attention to detail is more than chic or fashionable. It is de rigueur—necessary, required, and proper. Shenouda team member, Donna Muldoon, knows a thing or two about guides to stylish writing. Here is her take on the subject.

Of all the tools that a writer employs, a style guide may be the most used, most reliable, and most important in the day-to-day work of that writer. A style guide that is well organized, complete, and easy to use can save a writer the time and frustration of continually looking up information.

Just as an encyclopedia is a reference source that provides information that can be found in several other sources, a style guide can also act as a compendium of much of the information needed by a writer. A style guide is part Bible, part cookbook, part dictionary, part game rule book, and part fashion magazine. Like the Bible, a style guide proclaims what you shall and shall not do. As a cookbook, it outlines the recipes for font, color, dimensions, and icon usage. It serves as a shortcut dictionary for both common and product-specific words. Like a game rule book, a style guide can make referee-type decisions by reinforcing legal and corporate standards in matters of dispute. And the fashion magazine aspect is characterized through guidelines on tone, voice, and the presentation of content.

The main purpose of a style guide is to provide uniform, consistent standards throughout a group—whether it is a company, a field, a community, or a publication. The standards can form a unified voice and appearance that create a single brand image for all content creation including web pages, video, and marketing collateral. But most importantly, it ensures that multiple writers, contributors, and editors write with a common consistency.

So many options

There are several well-known commercial style guides such as the Associated Press (AP) Stylebook, The Chicago Manual of Style, and the newly updated Microsoft Writing Style Guide. These are acknowledged sources of editorial guidance used and approved by various writing communities. The Plain Writing Act of 2010 requires federal agencies to use clear governmental communication that the public can understand and use. The U.S. government website (www.plainlanguage.gov) includes excellent general writing advice, including addressing your audience, using concise language, attending to visual design, and testing your content.

Read More

A long-time member of the Shenouda Associates Inc. team, Donna Muldoon shares her entry into the technical writing business. Reluctant or not, her writing skills are strong and solid, and her editing skills are impeccable.  — Judy Shenouda

Donna-Judy

Donna, the reluctant writer, with Judy, the boss!

I am a reluctant writer.

From my first aptitude test in junior high to my last career counseling tests as an adult, I was told that I should be a writer. Even Mrs. C, my high school English teacher with the feared red pen, commented that I should be a journalist. But I always disliked writing. It was painful, a dreaded chore, whether it was a simple thank you note or a speech to be presented. Sometimes the words came easily, but other times, they wouldn’t come out of my pen no matter how soon that assignment was due.

But here I am—after 22 years as a technical writer—still reluctant to do any real writing. I’m defining real writing here as creative writing—the opposite of technical writing. For me, creative writing requires thought, imagination, attention-grabbing sentences, interesting characters, and maybe some human emotion. None of that is in my wheelhouse.

So, when a career counselor suggested that I consider technical writing, I needed more explanation as to what that entailed. The counselor set up a meeting with someone in the field, with the warning that this was not a job interview. With a business writing sample in hand and absolute certainty that no amount of information would convince me that writing was for me, I went to the meeting. The expert in the field turned out to be Judy Shenouda! Over the course of two hours, Judy explained the concepts of technical writing and showed me some examples. The sight of 200-page finished publications did not fill me with waves of excitement, anticipation, or confidence! But Judy made me an offer that very few people ever receive: I could try out working on a technical writing assignment for a month to see if I liked it. If Judy was willing to take a risk, there was nothing for me to lose.

The first 10 years, the next 10 years, and still counting

I tried out that job for 10 years, becoming the sole writer for one complex product that encompassed over 50 manuals, totaling more than 2,000 pages. In addition to becoming familiar with the product, I learned how to write using a controlled language, how to publish on FrameMaker, and how to build periodic CDs for the distribution of the manuals.

Skip ahead to now. Read More

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In honor of the Super Blood Wolf Moon Eclipse tonight (January 20, 2019), here’s an excerpt from Living Well in Froggy’s World of Plenty: Sweet Talk to Read Aloud, written during a previous supermoon.

On this night, all is quiet. All is peaceful. Time to rest. Time to sleep. Tonight, the moon is neither a sliver nor a crescent, neither a quarter nor a half.

This night, this gentle night, the moon is round, full, and big. This supermoon that illuminates the sky above has never appeared before, at least not during a critter’s lifetime.

Those with eyes to see watch the moon so perfect, so magical, so close. They wonder about this glowing ball that inspires dreamy reflections.

Looking at the supermoon, the critters quietly and softly sing, “I’ll be looking at the moon, but I’ll be seeing you.” Rosie Flower sees the face of her Superma who made music, music, music that delighted all. Looking up, up, up at the moon above, she hears Superma making more music still.

Superdad is with her, whistling away. Supergrandpa is there, too, lovingly listening.

In the moon that now seems so very near, the critters see many joyful, radiant faces of those who have passed on and live elsewhere now, in a far-off place that is beyond a critter’s understanding.

Rosie Flower thanks the moon for shining so big and so bright. “I’ll see you in the morning, moon dear. For now, sweet dreams and good night.”

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The time, the moment, and the space are ripe for relaxation, rest, and renewal.

The winter solstice approaches. With the shortening of sunlit days and the lengthening of starry, darkened nights, Froggy and friends sleep in a bit longer and eat a morsel less. Foraging for food becomes more work with ice and snow atop the hardened ground.

Woodsy comments to Belle Birdie, “I chipped a nice winter home in Mr. Tree’s trunk. There’s room for you to take shelter. I have another safe, comfortable abode just around the bend on Trunk Turnpike.”

“Thank you, Woodsy. I’ll take extra good care of this hallowed, hollow refuge from the winter’s cold. On snowy days, let’s unfold and flap our wings and visit Froggy on the pond. We will invite all the flocks wintering up North to join us.”

“The bird-bathing pond will be available to you any time,” said Froggy. “Visit whenever you like and have a cool, refreshing drink on the rocks.”

“I’ll visit, too,” adds Squirrely. “On a chilled day, I’ll be sure to bring along my squirrely kids and my antsy kith and kin to skate on the glistening, gleaming, glowing, icy surface.”

The critters know that in any season, in any weather, during hours of light and dark, the time, the moment, and the space are ripe for relaxation, rest, and renewal.

From Living Well in Froggy’s World of Plenty: Sweet Talk to Read Aloud, a collection of flash stories I wrote with the intention to charm and enchant readers and listeners alike.

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Sunday, December 2, 2018, 1:30 – 3:00 p.m.

PITTSFORD, N.Y.  –  In the spirit of the holiday season, local author Judith Ellison Shenouda invites you to the launch of new editions of her Living Well books. Free and open to the public, you might find the perfect gift for the job seeker, foodie, and nature lover, and meet a seasoned speaker for your upcoming event.

The event takes place on Sunday, December 2, 2018, at the Irondequoit Public Library, 1290 Titus Ave, Rochester, NY, Room 113.

Shenouda’s schedule at the event is:

1:30 p.m. Author meet and greet

2:00 p.m. Author reading and talk

2:30 p.m. Book sale and signing

Shenouda’s first book, Career Success in 12 Easy Steps: A Journal, motivates job seekers with space to think, explore, doodle, draw, dream, and create a success story for living well at work.

A Bisl of This, A Bisl of That: Eating Our Way, her second book, offers simply delicious recipes from family and friends for eating well and touching stories for living well in its jam-packed, food-filled pages.

Her latest book, Living Well in Froggy’s World of Plenty: Sweet Talk to Read Aloud, reveals a world of plenty where everything needed to live well abounds, ready to nourish and heal. Filled with sweet talk, this is the perfect gift to enchant readers and listeners.

Author Judith Ellison Shenouda is owner of Shenouda Associates Inc., a local business that researches, writes, and edits the many professional publications that streamline processes, launch products, and promote each client’s brand. Shenouda’s books can be found in several Rochester-area libraries and on Amazon.com and other online stores.

To learn more about the author, her business, and her books, visit her blog at https://judithshenouda.wordpress.com/.

To arrange a visit or a talk on a topic related to her business and books, email Shenouda@easescommunication.com.

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With second editions of my three books now published, I’m launching them! Ready or not, world, here they are. Happily, there are some occasions to introduce them.

What’s happening?

October 6, 2018, Irondequoit Library’s Local Author Day, 1 to 4 p.m. Along with other authors, I′ll be there discussing, selling, and signing my books. If you’re in the area, please stop by. For more information, click here.

October 7, 2018, Hosted by The Shift to Wellness, 5 to 6 p.m. EDT. Kirstin Kurtz Pinit interviews me during this online discussion and reading of Living Well in Froggy′s World of Plenty: Sweet Talk to Read Aloud. If you missed the discussion, take a look here.

December 2, 2018, at the Irondequoit Public Library, 1290 Titus Ave, Rochester, NY, Room 113. Author meet and greet at 1:30 p.m., author reading and talk at 2:00 p.m., and book sale and signing at 2:30 p.m.

I’m ready, willing, and able to participate in events and tell the story of these books, including why I wrote them, who influenced me, and how they came to life. I’m eager to share bits of wisdom learned about living well that, in one way or another, found their way into my books. My intention is to inspire you and others to live with abundance.

How can you help?

Take a look inside these new 2018 second editions:

Career Success in 12 Easy Steps, A Journal

Living Well in Froggy’s World of Plenty: Sweet Talk to Read Aloud

A Bisl of This, A Bisl of That: Eating Our Way

If you like what you see, write an Amazon review, ask me to be a guest blogger, and invite me to participate in your events. Tell me where I can share a little of this and a little of that about living well at work, in nature, and with food, family, friends.

Reach out to me at Shenouda@easescommunication.com. I would love to hear from you.