Unpacking What I Know About Writing

Technical communication is a complex task. As technical writers study and hone their craft, they compress what they learn until using it becomes second nature. If you’ve never studied education, you may not even be aware of the process, but we compress knowledge every time we learn something new.

Do you think about how to move your body every time you take a step? Of course not, but learning to walk requires extreme concentration. When students learn algebra, if they haven’t compressed, or packed, their knowledge of basic operations, it will be impossible to master the new material. Packing new knowledge means we have more brainpower available for the next new task.

Unpacking happens as well. While students are compressing knowledge as they learn, teachers are unpacking knowledge to teach. Continue reading “Unpacking What I Know About Writing”


The Odyssey Effect

AKA, the as-soon-as-you-buy-a-new-car-everyone-has-that-car effect.

Okay, I made up the Odyssey Effect*, but it turns out there is a name for that phenomenon: it’s called Baader-Meinhof phenomenon or, more scientifically, frequency illusion. And it doesn’t just apply to products. Words, songs, and even the language in job postings can trigger the feeling.

I was reminded of the “Odyssey Effect” while at a recent STC chapter meeting. A new member and I were talking about job hunting. She is stronger in tools knowledge and experience but weaker in domain knowledge, whereas I am just the opposite. When searching for jobs, she remembers all the postings requiring domain knowledge (network engineering experience, etc.), and I remember all the postings requiring FrameMaker and so on. Continue reading “The Odyssey Effect”

Better Late Than Never

I probably should have started this blog when I began exploring technical writing as a career. But, as they say, “better late than never.”

Earlier this year I was looking for a new direction. My daughter was getting ready to graduate from high school, and I was in a position to give my full attention to something other than math tutoring and being a marching band volunteer. (You would be amazed at the number of volunteer hours required to get 300+ students in uniform and on the field!) After getting a master’s degree and teaching credential a few years ago, I had reluctantly decided classroom teaching was not for me. As passionate as I still am about teaching students they can excel at math, I had to be honest that my skills and inclination favored small groups over classrooms of 35 students. Trying to give my best to 175 students would have consumed me. Not healthy.

I struggled with the question of what to do until I realized writing was a common theme throughout my life. Continue reading “Better Late Than Never”