A big thank-you to the very talented gardeners at my business, Shenouda Associates Inc., where we write all kinds of business and technical publications, including infographics like this.
Writing is like growing a garden. As we nurture the seedlings of ideas, the results we deliver are the product of a careful, methodical writing process that starts with understanding our readers’ needs and planning how to meet them.
At the start, we take a close look at the environment. We analyze the existing materials and start to picture the finished product. As the scope of work comes into focus, we map out how to move from the existing materials to the finished product. We consider how best to organize and format the deliverables. We assemble tools and break ground by creating a framework with outlines and templates. We sink our hands into the dirt, gather input from subject matter experts, and do our homework to understand the subject matter.
We place content into the right location and shape it into paragraphs, lists, tables, and other text elements. By leaving out whatever is not needed, we streamline ideas, showcasing the most important content and nurturing it to maturity.
We make sure that our creation matches our plans and feels like a balanced, unified whole. We check that the work is accurate and complete, minimizing distraction from jarring details.
As we walk through our garden, we confirm that it is easy to navigate. At harvest time, we publish our work, providing readers a bounty of new food for thought. Mature, published documents continue to grow and change with the seasons. We review and revise. We weed out what is no longer needed. We provide ongoing maintenance.
With the proper care, we allow our garden to grow.
Of course, we can do the same to support your writing needs.
For more information, visit Shenouda Associates Inc.
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.
“Renewal,“ Living Well in Froggy’s World of Plenty: Sweet Talk to Read Aloud
Before 2019 ends, enjoy this gift of the ebook Kindle edition of Living Well in Froggy’s World of Plenty. May the sweet talk of Froggy and his critter friends offer renewal, sustenance, light, laughter, and all that’s good to you and yours.
Owning a technical writing business for 30 plus years has been a true joy. While researching, writing, and publishing all sorts of publications for clients, I have enhanced my own authoring and publishing skills, which now include creating my own books, all of which are labors of love. Recently, I updated my Amazon author page. Very recently, I converted my newest book, Living Well in Froggy’s World of Plenty: Sweet Talk to Read Aloud into an ebook.
My next steps include:
- Narrating my Froggy book and offering an audio version
- Creating ebooks for Career Success in 12 Easy Steps: A Journal and A Bisl of This, A Bisl of That: Eating Our Way
I hope you will take a look and have a joyous moment.
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
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.
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
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
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.”