In an almost entirely metric, decimal world, the imperial measurement system is a hurdle that technical communicators  haven’t had to worry about. That is, until lately. Before 2000, imperial units in Britain used to be a feature  that could not be overlooked when translating from or towards the British market. Yet, with Brexit, hopes have been rekindled into bringing back the old imperial unit system. However, Is such a  prospect at all realistic?

Give a man an inch

While Ireland went  the whole nine yards and completed its conversion to metric by 2005, the United Kingdom kept dragging its feet in the final furlong towards making a complete switch. In the aftermath of Brexit, what once was a quaint notion defended mostly by staunch nationalists, is alluded to by prominent political figures such as Andrea Leadsom, the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs secretary, and Prime Minister Theresa May. The UK could revert, at least in part, to using imperial units. Some have high hopes that they may be able to  reconvert the country back to imperial units altogether.

Is the imperial system a force for good

Let’s take the City of Edinburgh Council’s Chief Brexit Strategist, Roman Cable for example. Surfing on a wave of imperial nostalgia, Mr Cable touts reverting to the old system as a perfect combination of educational and business opportunities: “Children have it very easy with the metric system. They have become good at 10 times multiplication. A return to the imperial system will ensure that all children will become fluent in a range of other multiplication tables.”  Let him or her who can remember that there are 12 inches to a foot, three feet in a yard and 1,760 yards or 5,280 feet in a mile, cast the first stone.

Closer to where our interests lie, he adds: “Computers, phones and point-of-sale cash registers will all have to be changed. It brings a ton of new business opportunities.” Could this be potentially beneficial to technical translators and localization specialists who may have to go the extra mile  when producing documentation?

Another argument that is sometimes put forth is that the USA (one of Britain’s main trading partners, second  only to the EU) uses imperial units, sharing the same units would make trading easier.

Despite the last argument being rather comical since the USA uses units that have the same names as the old British imperial units, they often represent different quantities: ask any Briton who has ordered a pint of beer in the US  must have felt cheated by about 20%. Avoiding such disparities is ironically the very reason why the metric system was invented in the first place!

After Brexit, what is the likelihood of a “Meterxit”

Even though it’s easy to understand the sentimental longing for relics of a bygone era,  you can bet a pound to a penny that such an outcome will be highly unlikely: Younger generations have in time become accustomed to liters, cubic meters and square kilometers as their yardstick.  As far as economics are concerned, proponents of the idea probably haven’t taken into account the full measure of how costly it would be to go back to the previous system—or even maintain both systems concurrently. As the saying goes, an ounce of common sense is worth a pound of theory.

I would be very surprised indeed if such a move was ever made. What are your thoughts on the subject? Should such a change happen, do you feel it would impact the work of a technical communicator, if at all? Please leave your comments below.

Nowadays, your customers are looking for information that is easily accessible online in many formats. Moreover, the technical information of a product not only helps to sell it, but also to build a community around it that perceives it positively. That way, your product will gain value and improve your reputation, leading to a healthy business model.

1. Content availability: the basics

It seems obvious that content should be easily available for any product. How can customers be interested in a product they will struggle to get information on ? Short of easily accessible information, they could misuse it and put themselves in potential danger.

Also, recent studies prove that people tend to prefer using a single platform for all the information.

2. Accurate content: Consistency

Your information must be consistent for the customer to find it useful. You must also make sure that the grammar is up to scratch, as well as how clear your content is. Technical communication needs to be easily readable for the customer to find it both interesting, and informative.

3. Appropriate content: Adaptation

When writing any technical content, there are three important points that must always be taken into account:

Language: You should focus most of your time and effort on  localization. As tcworld puts it,  “81 percent [of readers] want content available in their language”.

Complexity: you are going to give content to people who may not be experts within the domain. The simpler the terms and the more the information is broken down into understandable chunks, the better.

Accessibility: Mobiles and tablets are being increasingly used to search for information. Make your information mobile-friendly. With many formats available, it’s an easy and relatively cheap way of broadening your audience.

4. Connected content: Interaction

Today’s consumers want to interact with the product information they find. They might share, review, rate, comment it or even modify content, as they see fit.

Social media: this is particularly true for millenials, who are contstantly looking for a greater sense of community online. This is often done by commenting on a community website about the product.

Reputation:  Neglecting the image of your product is probably the biggest mistake you could make. People are likely to judge a brand according to the reviews they find on the Internet, so taking care of your online reputation should be at the top of your list.

Media: Here’s a smart tip: Another recent study shows that users like videos or video tutorials in order to help them understand a product. You’d better start using this format to improve your user experience!

Your product has greater chances of being successful if you can create a community around it. And this can be done by allowing users to interact with the different forms technical information that you have innovated for your product.

5. Intelligent content: Personalization

The last element when it comes to customer friendly technical information is adapting content to the user. Content could be personalized through filters for example, or made interactive to improve the user experience. Not only should the content be user-friendly, but so should the way in which users find it.

By making your content available, accurate, appropriate, connected and intelligent, you will create a solid customer base. This will lead to the creation of a community that will share about your product and participate in your brand reputation. Now that you understand the importance of developing your technical communication strategy, use it to make your product valuable and successful!

If you regularly follow the TCLoc blog, then you probably love languages, as we do. You might like to find people that share your passion, with whom you can discuss localization, and from whom you can learn many new localization-related tips. If you like the sound of this, then going to conferences is the perfect place to start. For this reason, we gathered information a host of major global localization and technical communication events. We hope that this information will help you connect with colleagues like-minded individuals in the localization industry.

Some practical advice: I you are looking for a job/internship in the localization industry, take care to consult the websites of the companies you see at the localization events you attend. Companies often publish job offers during, and after, such events.

P.S.

  • We know it’s already March but there is still plenty of time to go to some awesome conferences.
  • Did we forget to add your event? Feel free to contact us or leave a comment below, we would gladly fix any mistake.

AfricaAsiaEuropeMiddle EastNorth AmericaSouth AmericaOceania

Africa

  • Apr 25, 2018 – Apr 26, 2018 – Algiers, Algeria
    ICNLSP 2018 by Directorate General for Scientific Research and Technological Development
  • May 25, 2018 – May 26, 2018 – Stellenbosch, South Africa
    ATSA by the Association for Translation Studies in Africa
    100 USD for students

Asia

Europe

Middle East

  • Apr 09, 2018 – Apr 11, 2018 – Ramat Gan, Israel 
    LATA 2018Research Group on Mathematical Linguistics
    470€ for students

North America

South America

  • Jun 25, 2018 – Jun 17, 2018 – Rio de Janeiro, Brazil 
    ABRATES IXBrazilian Association of Translators (ABRATES)
    R$ 570.00

Oceania

  • May 26, 2018 – May 27, 2018 – Wellington, New Zealand  
    NZSTI 2018 – New Zealand Society of Translators and Interpreters

One conference is not enough for you? Want to become an expert in technical communication and localization? Take a look around on our TCLoc website!

Safety, efficiency, and readability are the main considerations for the use of ASD-STE100 Simplified Technical English (STE) in the aerospace and defense industries. For many other industries, such as machinery, automotive, electronics, IT, and medical equipment, another important consideration is to save on translation costs without compromising on translation quality. As technical communicators, navigating the tricky terrains of cost, quality, and efficiency in project management can be an extremely delicate equilibrium to maintain.

Standards

To technical communication professionals, it makes a lot of sense to use standards whenever possible to achieve similar results. However, standards in the documentation field are often disregarded. Documentation always kicks in when the product is already behind schedule, and over budget for the product life-cycle. However, we still want to stand behind what we do and make sure we provide a quality product. How does a written language standard potentially help us to achieve this and why do we need a controlled language such as STE to begin with? Consider the following example:

Standard English:

Follow these instructions to prevent potential failures and damage and to ensure as safe and trouble-free functioning of the product as possible. Read this manual before starting to work with the filter system, familiarize yourself with the functionality and operation of the product and follow the instructions.

STE:

FOR SAFE OPERATION, OBEY THESE INSTRUCTIONS TO PREVENT POSSIBLE FAILURES. READ THIS MANUAL BEFORE YOU START TO DO WORK WITH THE FILTER SYSTEM. KNOW THE PRODUCT FUNCTION AND OPERATION, AND OBEY ALL INSTRUCTIONS. Which set of instructions lets you understand and complete the procedure with greater ease?

STE rules echo sound writing practices

STE is an aerospace standard, or at least it started off that way. Given the success of STE, and its adaptability, it has been applied to various document types over time, and increasingly also in other (mainly technical) industries. One valuable STE rule that I would consider the most important is: Only use approved words. The STE language standard includes 53 writing rules and a core vocabulary, or general dictionary, of around 930 words that will let you write just about everything you need for technical documentation, even for procedural information in general. Instead of ‘execute’, ‘carry out’, or ‘conduct’ a test, users are instructed to simply ‘do’ a test. While STE will not completely eliminate the differences between individual writer’s writing styles and characteristics, it still goes a long way towards standardizing and ensuring that we can put different parts of the documentation together to get a consistent manual without the need for rework or editing.

An industry example

Our customer is an international manufacturer of escalators, elevators, and moving walkways. The company produces, installs, maintains, and modernizes elevators and escalators in many types of buildings including residential, commercial, and high-rise buildings. In the initial phase of their STE implementation, they decided to do away with some common verbs that are not approved of by STE, in favor of simpler and more concise STE verbs. STE Rule 1.2: Use only approved words from the dictionary as the part of speech given. This means, every term in the dictionary is assigned one or two parts of speech. For example, COMPLETE is only meant to be used as a verb and must not be used as an adjective in STE: 

Simplified Technical English

 Table 1: Partial list of approved and unapproved Simplified Technical English (STE) words to be adopted in phase 1 of our customer’s ASD-STE100 implementation.

As our customer’s STE journey unfolds…

We are witnessing a 20% decrease in text volume with more repetition and comprehensibility in their operational manuals. With the use of STE, we are also predicting 35% to 40% savings in future translation costs and expect this figure to grow when STE is gradually implemented in other departments worldwide. Not surprisingly, STE will reduce the number of unique terms and improve translation quality and consistency across all document types, irrespective of the industry. Article written by Shumin Chen, Trainer and Consultant at Shufrans TechDocs. Check out some of our other articles on topic which include Localization and Machine Learning.

Reference:

  • ASD-STE100 Simplified Technical English: International specification for the preparation of technical documentation in a controlled language. ISSUE 7, JANUARY 2017

tekom is Europe’s largest professional association for technical communication with organizations in Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Romania and Turkey. Founded in November 2013 in Germany, this association focuses on the expansion of technical communication, the technical writers certification and the “development of technical guidelines and standards that help to use products more safely and more effectively.”

tekom:

  • organizes conferences such as: tekom Europe Roadshow, tcworld, tcworld India, tcworld China
  • publishes magazines such as: technische kommunikation, tcworld magazine
  • provides online international training and certification with their program TCTrainNet

A growing community

tekom is a growing community with certified members worldwide. It connects active professionals in technical communication. You can easily become a member and benefit of their membership advantages.

tekom France

Established in 2012, its main goal is to bring together professionals of the technical communication field and other areas in France. tekom France promotes networking, further education and training for its members. They also organize events, and conferences focused on topics of current interest in technical communication and related fields.

Several universities in France such as the University of the Strasbourg offer Technical Communication programs at license and masters levels. One of the programs offered by the University of Strasbourg is the new Masters in Technical Communication and Localization (TCLoc). Students enrolled in the TCLoc masters also receive the tekom certification for technical communicators.

tcworld conference 2016

The 2016 tcworld conference will be held from November 8 – 10 in Stuttgart, Germany. This annual conference is one of the largest international events for technical communicators. The attendees will be active members of the industrial, software, and service companies mainly from Austria, Germany and Switzerland. Other European country members will also be part of the event.

This event will be a great networking opportunity for students in technical communications and related fields, which will allow them to make a first contact with their future profession. Companies that provide software and services related to technical communications also participate in these events as sponsors, or presenting their product and services in stands.

The European Association for Technical Communication defines it as “the process of defining, creating and delivering information products for the safe, efficient and effective use of products (technical systems, software, services)”. The job of a technical communicator is to make complex information accessible to a unique audience and to help users understand the product information provided in the documentation.

User experience

A technical communicator needs to keep the user experience in mind and to connect with its audience. One of the main goals of technical communication is to assist the user. When creating technical documentation the focus should be on the user and not on the product. It is important to provide simple, clear, and comprehensive information thus helping users do their final job.

The purpose of technical communication is to explain what, why, and how or the results of a particular research study. Efficient technical information needs to be easy to use, easy to understand, and easy to find.

Disciplines 

The extent of Technical Communications may vary based on the industry. The following disciplines are often associated with it:

  • Technical Writing/Authoring
  • Editing
  • Illustration
  • User Experience Design
  • Information/Document Design
  • Instructional Design
  • Translation/Localization
  • Publishing/Content Delivery

The European Association for Technical Communication (tekom) published a Competence Framework that defines the Competences for Technical Communicators.  In this comprehensive guide, you will be able to find information about the “Technical Communicator (tekom)” Certificate, and their Three-step Certification Process.

Moreover, if you have any further inquiries about getting your certification, you have the possibility to contact the expert advice of qualified counselors (this service is free to tekom members who pay membership fees). They also provide a list of downloadable documents needed to get the tekom “Technical Communicator” certification and also have made other useful tools available on their site.

Technical Communication Today

Nowadays, technical communication is a worldwide growing profession. Different design features such as typography, spacing, and color are used to enhance readability.

Furthermore, product companies are investing in hiring technical communicators to create the technical data about their products such as manuals, and assembly instructions. For them, it is a product strategy and an investment that will differentiate them from their competitors. A technical communicator will help their users to effectively assemble their products and have a better user experience.

Universities and colleges all over the world are expanding their curriculums to include programs in technical communication such as the TCLoc Master’s at the University of Strasbourg, in France.

Resources

  1. Techwhirl article – What is Technical Communications?
  2. Google Books – Technical Communication for Engineers