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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.

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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

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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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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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When family members wanted to compile a cookbook of favorite recipes, I was happy to oblige. They know how to cook and bake. I know how to write, edit, and publish. We all know how to eat tasty food. Thus, the first edition of A Bisl of This and That: Eating Our Way was born.

Yummy first edition

I loved sharing the first edition with family, friends, and many others who delighted in the recipes and stories as evidenced in their comments:

“This book made me hungry in more ways than one: the delicious recipes, of course, but also the sweet family stories connected with them. From the Stuffed Cabbage to the Noodle Kugel to the Honey Cake for dessert, my mouth watered with every page. These recipes range from simple to complex, sweet to savory, little-bits and whole-lots—all delish! By the end, I felt like I was a member of the family having shared a meal and a song around the piano all together.”

“The recipes are easy to follow, which I can only imagine is a result of having been put together by an author with years of technical communication experience, and I believe the Spanish Rice and Tzimmes dishes may become a part of my own family’s go-to favorites. As a bonus, each recipe comes with a family story about how the dish was enjoyed. It is a great way to enjoy the time while the food cooks in the oven.”

A Bisl of This, A Bisl of That…the perfect title for this delicious cookbook has replaced my old, worn, always dependable go-to cookbook. Judy Ellison Shenouda has compiled not only a mouth-watering collection of varied recipes but has invited you into memories of her childhood home as (extended) family members recall and share delightful gatherings, framed by love, remarkable food, and always…music. This wonderful book almost has you sitting at her family table sharing culinary history as you imagine the aroma of home-made food that even you can easily duplicate.”

Even more yummy second edition

At book events, folks flipped through the pages of the first edition and asked interesting questions. “What, no Chicken Soup with Matzo Balls?” “No Half-Moon Cookies?” “Can you find a recipe for the Plum Kuchen my mother brought with her many years ago from Europe?” With this new second edition, you can now make these dishes and more. Start your day with Bagels or Bread Pudding. Try a wonderful meal of Chicken Paprikás, Hungarian Dumplings, and Cucumber Salad. Cook the Amish Onion Cakes and Tater Tot Shepherd’s Pie for lighter fare. Cap a meal with Mahogany Cake or Orange Cookies from Poland.

Look inside

Take a Look inside Amazon for this new edition. I bet you’ll like the recipes for eating well and the stories for living well found within these jam-packed, food-filled pages.

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A new cover, refreshed content, and a larger page size greet you in Career Success in 12 Easy Steps: A Journal.

First edition

Several years ago, I was spending too many hours in front of a computer, writing manuals for clients and managing a technical writing business. Working from a home-based office, I missed being with people. I remembered my teaching days and the exchanges that take place in group settings. I wanted to get out more to talk and listen and learn, and created a plan to transition from computer time plying my craft to sharing my work with others. Thus, the motivation for Career Success in 12 Easy Steps: A Journal was born.

Authoring, publishing, and marketing the first edition of my first book had its rewards.

Others enjoyed journaling their way to career success as evidenced in reviewers’ comments:

“Using it as it’s meant to be used, as a journal, you’ll be amazed at what you reveal to yourself.”

“The magic of this work-book is that it can be used by people at any stage in their career to help focus on what they want to be doing—a key ingredient to being successful.”

“It’s an unassuming little book that will not intimidate young people preparing to go forward with more confidence. It’s a good way for experienced adults to mentor them without preaching!”

“Quite unique to this book were a fill-in-the-word story at the end of each chapter and a complete story at the end of the book. These are not just silly Mad-Lib stories! Each section asks you to own your own dreams, successes, skills, etc. I feel like my story of career success has been written, and it is now up to me to live it and make it a reality!”

“The question ‘What are you wearing?’ led me to my ah-ha moment. I pictured myself in casual sporty clothes, holding a patient chart. Combining this with other pieces of the puzzle I had put together with the help of this book, I have found my new passion.”

Second edition

Over the past several months, I have worked on a second edition of Career Success in 12 Easy Steps: A Journal. Like the first edition, this new, improved edition is intended for those in transition from school to work, from one work experience to another, or from work to other meaningful pursuits. The scenarios and guided journaling activities offer readers time and space to think, explore, doodle, draw, dream, and create success stories. Parents, teachers, and other growth coaches might just find this book the perfect tool to support those who are journeying toward a productive, fruitful life.

This second edition of Career Success in 12 Easy Steps: A Journal has refreshed content, a new cover, and a larger page size, allowing readers to journal away. Go ahead. Take a Look Inside. I hope you like what you see.

Living well

Career Success in 12 Easy Steps: A Journal offers a path for living well at work. The living well theme finds its way into each of my books.

Living Well in Froggy’s World of Plenty: Sweet Talk to Read Aloud, through Froggy and his critter friends, explores living well in nature.

A Bisl of This, A Bisl of That: Eating Our Way has recipes and stories for living well with food, family, and friends.

Heres to happy reading and happy living.

For someone who is much more adept at creating with words than creating with pictures, I’m learning how much fun it is to match words with pictures. While in the process of updating my three books and branding them with a consistent look and feel, I’m preparing to redo the book cover for my first book, Career Success in 12 Easy Steps: A Journal.

In my quest for pictures, I discovered Pixabay.com, which provides “Beautiful Free Images.” I searched combinations of key words such as careers, success, steps, stairs, path, journal, and more. I discovered many, many images from very talented artists that are available for commercial use. My idea is to wrap the entire book cover—front, back, and spine—with an image. I’m considering the three options below. Read More