When I first started as a tech writer, the buzzwords circled around globalization and how to reach a varied and variable audience. We looked at such issues as translating text, reducing cultural faux pas and allowing for expanding callouts in graphics, methods for delivering the documentation, all while considering that our decisions were easily colored by our own experiences and culture.
We were encouraged to think globally, but write locally. Some of my very earliest documentation went to a multi-cultural audience, but then it settled into a “for English speakers” and “probably will not used outside of North America” routine. I settled into writing locally and thinking locally. “To globalize” started to turn into a verb that meant “to make rotund.”
Now, however, I am writing locally, working with engineers who are only a few desks away from mine. They’re writing the software for both routine daily tasks and the diagnostics used for maintenance, repair, and system test and calibration during manufacturing. I’m writing the how-tos for using the software with the hardware. For that, I must think globally. The manufacturing technicians are off shore. They may read and speak at least two languages, but their native language probably is not English. Ditto for field service. I’m thankful that I can get feedback from all of these people.
It’s challenging to keep my writing from becoming rotund. However, there’s a work-around available. I volunteer. As an SF chapter member and ActiveVOICE editor, I look at lots of writing styles for every edition, try to make appropriate comments, and then learn from those other writers. As a tech writer, the annual TC Camp includes some great learning opportunities while helping others as needed. And going beyond words, I sew quilts for Project Linus, which gives those quilts–and lots more–to kids in crisis. I strive to consider the images on the fabrics, and even the comforting touch of soft, frequently fuzzy and warm fabrics, and hope that I’ve made somebody’s life a little bit better.
What are you doing to think and write both globally and locally?
I’m looking forward to seeing you soon at a meeting.
Marie McElravy, Editor