Tim Lloyd, Portal 80 Multimedia Inc.

“I would like you to meet Jason Hall, the fellow that will be working on the content for the site. We have worked with Jason in the past; as previously mentioned and find that he will be a great addition to the team.”

What’s a Technical Writer Worth in Vancouver?

My students frequently ask me about salary ranges for technical writers and, occasionally are confronted with their expected salary range on a first job interview. Based on Stats Canada information, you can add a job title, city, and province and find out what the salary range is. Here are the latest statistics on what salaries technical writers get in Vancouver:


Try it yourself.

Use Active Voice

Use Active Voice

Tricky Dick

The phrase, “Mistakes were made” is attributed to US President, Richard Nixon, to acknowledge that the Watergate situation was mishandled. He could have spoken in active voice and said, “Mistakes were made by me” or better still, “I made mistakes”, but he evaded direct admission of responsibility and thereby went down to history as Tricky Dick.

There are three times when it’s appropriate to write in the passive voice:

  • When the doer is unknown. “My bass clarinet was removed.”
  • When the doer is unimportant. “The lab rats were given a placebo.”
  • To protect the doer from embarrassment. “You were overcharged for your purchase.”

TIP: In technical writing, you can distinguish between general concepts and action-oriented procedures by writing the former in passive voice and the latter in active.

Using active voice in web writing adds interest and action to your writing. Good sentences begin with a clearly stated subject (the doer) and a strong verb (action). While it is a commonly used verb, “to be” is passive as it describes a state of being rather than doing. So the more you use “to be”, the more passive sounding your writing will be. Also, some verbs are weaker than others. The verb “to understand” is weaker, because it is harder to quantify and tends to get lumped with another verb that’s doing the real work.

EXAMPLE: To understand how to run for President of the United States, you must have friends in high places.

 

5 Ways to Lower Costs with Your Telematics Investment

Our customers frequently report that the way they realize the best results from their AVL (automatic vehicle location) solution is knowing what to do with all the data the solution provides. Webtech Wireless solutions contain extensive tools (such as score cards and reports), designed to show you how your fleet is operating.

Here are 5 ways you can lower costs:

1.    Re-allocate Resources

A GPS/AVL fleet management solution allows you to see where your vehicles are in real time. Knowing this enables you to allocate resources where they’re most needed. For example, Webtech Wireless’ Quadrant Manager provides the Find Nearest Vehicle feature, which also shows the best route to the desired location. This saves you in fuel costs and provides better service to your customers. Simply put, increased visibility into your mobile assets lowers your operating costs.

Quadrant - Find Nearest Vehicle

Quadrant - Find Nearest Vehicle

2.    Reduce Unnecessary Idling

A truck burns one gallon of fuel per hour of idling. Idling times are shown to range from 500 to more than 4,000 hours per year. How much idling is unnecessary in your fleet?

“Depending on the cost of fuel, distance traveled, and the size of your fleet, a 0.1 mpg improvement in fuel economy justifies the entire cost of a telematics deployment.”
— Telematics Return on Investment: the Human Factor

3.    Improve Driver Behavior

Our customers tell us that, after unnecessary idling, driver behavior (speeding, fast accelerations, and harsh braking) wastes more fuel, thus driving up the costs of doing business. They find that improving driver behavior (i.e., training and motivation programs) is the best way to eliminate these wasteful practices.

Accidents are costly. The more serious the accident, the more time and attention management must give to deal with it. Vehicle repair costs can vary from $3,000 to $5,000 for a fender bender to $50,000 to $100,000 for a serious accident. Liability risk, human injury, and brand reputation all create significant risk for an organization.

“There are so many unknown losses from accidents. There is lack of productivity when we all have to turn our attention to managing an accident. All kinds of personnel wasting their time dealing with the accident and managing the consequences. The cost itself can be really bad. Trucks are down, customers are upset, and it is an amplification of a problem.”
–Kevin Bookey, National Foods, Transportation Manager

4.    Eliminate Paper-based Reporting

Webtech Wireless’ Quadrant solution provides state-of-the-art Hours of Service (HOS) reporting that will save you thousands of dollars in errors, overtime, and even non-compliance fines. Without an electronic on-board reporting tool (EOBR) solution, the most common practice is for paperwork to be completed at the end of the day—almost always billed as overtime hours. Quadrant’s MDT device records HOS information automatically and reports it to head office in real time.

5.    Minimize Risk

Minimizing risk pro-actively also lowers operating costs. For example, fines for inaccurate fuel-tax reporting can run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Companies take enormous risk with manual records. Once a fuel tax audit starts, it is almost impossible to predict how long and expensive the resulting audit will be for the company. After fuel tax reporting is automated, this risk is vastly reduced.

Use Concrete Specific Words

Use Concrete Specific Words

StuffnJunkUsing concrete specific words won’t necessarily make your writing shorter, but it will make it more interesting to read.

Avoid:

  • Several – how many?
  • Numerous – What number?
  • Various – Which?
  • Very – use your imagination!

And of course:

  • Stuff
  • Junk
  • Whatever!

 

It’s a Digital Life – Writing for the Web

When writing a blog (or any type of web writing), you are writing for an audience that’s fickle and distracted. There’s just too much information, so they flit about and if they encounter a challenge (such as poor organization, rambling prose, padded sentences), they bail. Web readers will not read your writing, unless it is written to their needs.

Web readers read differently:

  • They don’t read screens as easily as pages.
  • They tend to scan and forage for the content they want.
  • They don’t read in a linear fashion—they follow links and move about.

The general rule for web writing is to write shorter sentences, but little information is ever provided on how to write shorter sentences. The maxim, “Ride the horse in the direction it’s headed” is appropriate here. If you organize your information in a way that follows how people read, your blog is more likely to be read.

Redundancy—A serious and critical crime since 1066

Here’s a little tip from my technical editing and grammar class about why there’s so much accepted redundancy in English:

“It all goes back to that fateful Battle in Hastings in 1066. After the Anglo-Saxons lost, Norman rule was established in England and with it, a second language. In order to rule the country (and be understood), court officials, lawmakers, and judges had to repeat themselves in both official languages (sound familiar?). Commoners, anxious to put on airs and sound official, incorporated these redundancies into everyday language, bringing about some of the phrases we have today:

  • Null (Anglo) and Void (Norman)
  • Just (Anglo) and Proper (Norman)

This writing habit is now so widespread that writers often think they need to use the and/or construct to accommodate both words, when the best solution is to simply remove the offending redundant word or phrase.”

Endorsement from Jeremy Berkman, Co-Artistic Director, Turning Point Ensemble

Jason is very sensitive to the needs of his clients and—being a musician himself—helped us immensely in crafting our ensemble’s acclaimed web-site. He is easy to brainstorm with and patient in explaining areas of his knowledge with those less familiar. 

October 16, 2011, Jeremy Berkman, Co-Artistic Director, Turning Point Ensemble


My Six Keys to Achieving Excellence

I just read Tony Schwartz’s recent blog on the Harvard Business Review describing the six keys to achieving excellence. I enjoyed it and was inspired. Then, I thought how my music training, apart from providing a lifetime of enjoyment playing music, has given me a first-hand experience achieving excellence. Sometimes, I forget that not all people have had that excellence, so they don’t know why things are tough or don’t they don’t get the results they want.

I’ve taken Mr. Schwartz’s six points and applied them to my experience in music to draw some inspiration in other areas of my life where I feel, er, less accomplished:

  1. Pursue what you love. This is a no brainer as nobody in their right mind would pursue music for any reason other than he or she loves it. A couple of years ago when I started questioning the wisdom of leaving a promising career as an orchestral musician for technical writing (what?), I had an epiphany that has helped me rejig my career back into something I can say I love.
    I was using my head to make big decisions (what shall to do with my life?) and my heart to make small ones (what should I have for lunch today?). I should have been doing the exact opposite.
    I realized I’d been directing my life to things that were rational and, um, boring instead of inspiring. On a daily basis, I was being capricious in a way that was essentially undermining my plans. I needed to start doing the exact reverse: plan my life from my heart and my daily affairs from my head. “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” — “Practice!”
  2. Do the hardest work first. In music, the fastest way to do something is slowly. Orchestral musicians meticulously dissect a passage of music until they can play it with ease. Getting to the ease part can take a long time and a lot of patience, but things don’t necessarily come easy—even in music.
  3. Practice intensely, I think people imagine that playing music is relaxing. Well, it is but only after conquering the Himalayan peaks of practice. I don’t know whether musicians practice because they love music or they love music because they practice so much. I think I practiced my way into loving music. It became all consuming in the best possible way. Don’t do things by half measure.
  4. Seek expert feedback, in intermittent doses. There is nothing so humbling as bearing your soul before a more accomplished musician. I’ve always been suspicious of the self-taught musician. How can anyone grow surrounded only by there own opinions and habits? There’s no better way to acquire new abilities and to go beyond what you thought yourself capable of than by seeking out an expert to help you reach your goals.
  5. Take regular renewal breaks.When I studied at the Banff Centre for the Arts, we would play chamber music in the morning and then go skiing in the afternoon. By the next day we were indeed renewed. Besides, when you’re doing what you love (or loving what you do), you’re integrating new information all the time—even when you’re asleep.
  6. Ritualize practice. As a musician, I really liked playing scales. It was like a morning ritual. I had the most brutally difficult study book I’d found somewhere. It was called, “Vade Mecum” which I think means “Take along companion” and it was actually written for flute. It included every possible scale and arpeggio configuration in every register. Two hours of that and I felt like I could wrestle a bear!

A music endorsement

“I’ve had the distinct pleasure and honour of playing music with Jason Hall for much of the past year. Jason’s musicality and unquestionable ability wonderfully combines sensitivity with humour and vitality with compassion.”

—Jason Jones, Musician