Looking for Chapter Leaders

It’s been my sincere pleasure to organize the monthly meetings for the STC San Francisco Chapter for several years. However, myself and other current volunteers are unable to continue volunteering next year.

Without a core group of volunteers, we won’t be able to offer monthly meetings to our members. Without this, the chapter may need to combine with other local STC chapters.

That’s where you could come in. 🙂

I’m asking for volunteers to continue running the chapter. Next year, we would need a fresh roster of volunteers in two groups.

Elected (must be a STC member):

  • President
  • Treasurer
  • Vice President
  • Secretary

Non-Elected (doesn’t need to be a STC members, but crucial to the chapter)

  • Program coordinator
  • Event coordinator
  • Communications coordinator (website, social media, emails)
  • Membership coordinator

If you are interested in giving back to the technical writer community and have a few hours to spare a month, please reach out to me via our chapter email, info@stc-sf.org. I’d love to hear from you and discuss how you would like to help the chapter.

If you have any questions or suggestions, please let me know!

Thank you very much,

Leah Scampoli
STC SF Chapter President

Time Marches On


We hope you have enjoyed the new STC San Francisco Chapter web space thus far.

It seems I’ve only just agreed to take over as Editor, and yet, we find ourselves already at mid March.  Throughout this year we intend to bring you the latest topics in Technical Writing as well a current happenings for the San Francisco chapter as well as other professional writers around the Bay area.

I hope you will find interest herein where we provide our newest articles:

Our President, Leah Scampoli shares in her article about the live Webinar Trends in Mobile Software User Assistance by Joe Welinske

Technical Recruiter Shares Expertise is a STC meeting review written by Doug Bothwell

Finally, we hope to see you all at 18 March meeting at the Rincon Center. Read more about what’s happening here.

We welcome comments and suggestions for presentations and written articles. Please be in touch at info@stc-sf.org.


Sherry Nugent

Letter from the Editor

Dear Readers,

The only constant is change.

It’s almost time to change the year, the weather is changing with the season—the rain is so welcome this year–
and our SF chapter has a few changes coming:

  • It’s exciting to include information in this issue about a new meeting place for January. It is convenient to BART, Muni, and parking, a real plus in San Francisco.
  • We have some new people in new or new-to-them positions in the chapter. In particular, you’ll enjoy a new editor for the newsletter team starting with the next issue.
  • I’ll take over as program manager in the new year. If you want to make a presentation or suggest a topic and presenter, please email the chapter at info@stc-sf.org.

Wishing you a wonderful winter holiday and a fabulous new year with positive changes!

I’m looking forward to seeing you soon at a meeting.

Marie McElravy, Editor


Letter from the Editor

Dear Readers,

As I write today, it’s a bit chilly and cloudy. The weather forecast promises at least a few more days of hot, sunny weather, but the season is turning in the rhythm of the year. Summer is over. The seasonal produce from local farms no longer features fresh blackberries and summer squashes, but includes winter squashes and root vegetables while the farmers let their fields rest. Students are done with resting over their vacation, school is back in session, and we must watch out for kids on foot and on bikes during our commutes.

My documentation is moving toward the release phase as the software engineers finalize windows and functions; my time goes into looking for the subtle changes, rather than learning how a function is supposed to work. The hardware is solid, so I’m able to get accurate graphics of how parts fit and function together. I like the rhythm of ramping up, working intensely, then ramping down for a brief rest when the project is done, and repeating the rhythm for the next project.

There’s another rhythm that runs through my head, the rhythm of music. Although I lack the sense of rhythm to easily perform music, I can follow a director as part of a group and memorize the rhythm in the context of the words, notes, and rests. Thank goodness for the rests in music: they provide a chance to breathe and be ready for the next phrase; they act like white space in text.

Recently, I learned a trick for making pie crusts, breads, and other pastries that are rolled out and shaped before baking. I work them quickly to mix, then sometimes vigorously knead them, and shape them into a square or ball before rolling them. I used to immediately attack them with my rolling pin, and wondered why such a nice tidy square or round ball could turn into something that resembled a map of Africa or South America. I recently learned that if I let the dough rest for a while, such as 10 minutes, before rolling, the dough is willing to remain a square or circle and fit nicely into the pan.

I love being busy, but I know that resting is valuable, too. I’m looking forward to November and December, when our chapter rests from monthly meetings. And in January, the chapter’s rhythm returns to regular meetings with the opportunities to network and learn.

I’m looking forward to seeing you soon at a meeting.

Marie McElravy, Editor

Letter from the Editor

Dear Readers,

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

Letter from the Editor

Dear Readers,

My blueberries are ripening! Individually, they’re such little things, those nibble-sized nuggets of blue goodness prove that great things come in small packages! Several years ago, I planted about four different varieties of blueberries that ripen at different times from late spring through the middle of summer. Since then, I also learned that the berries ripen gradually, not all at once, on each bush, which makes the harvest even better: I can enjoy them in a variety of wonderful ways over several weeks, not just in a brief rush.

And my work has recently expanded to include a different aspect of looking at the hardware I’m documenting. I started with writing how-tos for field service engineers, describing how the equipment works, how to maintain it, and how to troubleshoot and fix it when something goes wrong.

My new point of view is what the technicians see during assembly and test. These people look at individual bits of the whole and need to understand how those bits fit and function together so that, when completely assembled and integrated, the whole will work properly. An engineer started the documentation, and my task is to turn it into something that clearly, concisely, and accurately tells the technicians what to do. Sounds typical, right?

In this case, I need to meet some special needs. The technicians are not native-English speakers. The assembly/test area isn’t close to where the design engineers live and work, so they can’t get quick, in-person answers to questions. I’ve never met them–and probably never will, although I can talk directly to some of the design engineers.

So what can I do to meet their needs? I’m focusing on the little things. I’m translating from engineeringese to standard English. I’m using consistent, specific terms for each bit. I’m avoiding weasel words, such as “should” that work well in the design process, but not as a specification. And I’m paying attention to the little words, such as “the” and “a,” as well as the serial commas.

It’s so easy to skip over the little things, thinking that they’re clutter, that they won’t be missed, or that “they’ll know what that means” But they provide a wealth of meaning and help ensure that the technicians will successfully assemble and test that hardware the first time, the tenth time, the hundredth time, and every other time.

Little things mean so much. Please excuse me while I pick some more blueberries!

I’m looking forward to seeing you soon at a meeting.

Marie McElravy, Editor