Ambiguous Antecedent

Karen Field CarrollUncategorizedLeave a Comment

Being a technical writer and editor, I’m somewhat fond of style guides. The other day I found a good deal on the Associated Press Stylebook and Briefing on Media Law 2013, so I bought it and took it home. Flipping through the book later, I read this in the Foreword: “The first Associated Press Stylebook was 60 pages, bound together … Read More

About the Samples in this Blog

Karen Field CarrollUncategorizedLeave a Comment

Sometimes the best way to teach a new way of doing something is to show an old way and describe the differences. I use samples from technical manuals, marketing materials, user guides, and other forms of business communication to illustrate some of the problems in professional writing, and to describe how to apply plain language to solve those problems. I … Read More

Stand in the Gap: Translating Product Feature Names into User Tasks

Karen Field CarrollUncategorizedLeave a Comment

I haven’t always known about plain language. Before I began studying it, I wrote as clearly and concisely as I could, but I missed an important principle: Translating product features into user tasks. Here’s what I mean: The other day, when editing a help file, I came across a topic I’d titled, “Using Pay Invoices Online.” Clear enough, yes? Sort … Read More

The Language Link

Karen Field CarrollUncategorizedLeave a Comment

I’ve worked in technical communication for almost two decades. I’ve written user guides, online help, newsletters, tutorials, reference guides, API specifications, and user interface text. I’ve written the documentation for tax software, task-management software, science-lab hardware, and system-to-system technology used by the mortgage industry. I’ve even written humor columns and articles about technical communication. My favorite aspect of technical communication … Read More

Thinking about Writing: It’s Illogical

Karen Field CarrollUncategorizedLeave a Comment

Recently I picked up Robert Lane Greene’s book You Are What You Speak. I love reading books about language, especially ones that discuss the various dialects of English, and so I thought my romp through the pages of this one would be another such awe-inspiring tour of my native tongue. I was wrong. From the first chapter, the author’s tone … Read More

Adversarial Adverbs

Karen Field CarrollUncategorizedLeave a Comment

Ah, the humble adverb. Writers use adverbs to emphasize a point, deepen a sentiment, refine an action. The problem is, adverbs do just the opposite. Consider this sentence. “I am truly sorry.” The adverb “truly” qualifies “sorry.” The listener’s obvious question is, “As opposed to not being truly sorry?” Adverbs rob good words of their power. Or how about, “I … Read More

Adopt the User’s Perspective

Karen Field CarrollUncategorized

Learn to see what your users see. Read my latest post on the STC’s blog “Notebook”: http://notebook.stc.org/plainly-speaking-adopt-the-users-perspective/

A New Year, a New U(ser’s Guide)

Karen Field CarrollUncategorized

This is not a blog about writing. I feel compelled to say that because so many people hear “plain language” and think “text” or “words.” But I’ve studied plain language in technical communication for several years now, and so I know that using plain language in documentation begins long before we sit down at our keyboards to write. Instead, the … Read More