Starting a blog of my own had been in the back of my mind for months together. I am not sure what made me choose this day to ignite the spirits, though. Here I am however, all in action! ūüôā

In this space, I share, at full length, my personal experiences (with music, culinary etc.), views on things that impressed (or depressed) me .. and most importantly, post articles on technical writing, my passion, which also happens to be what I do to earn a living.

No matter how perfect you think¬†you are, there is always a room for¬†improvment, ain’t it ?! Do not forget¬†to leave your comments whatsoever ‚Ķ.¬† it will sure help me progress.

Thanks for dropping in.

Cheers, Shivi-

Who says the list of words  in English that are commonly misused/misspelled is complete ? Here are a few that I have come across and I can guarantee that the list will never stop growing until the demise of the universe !!

A few mechanic shop boards (usually handwritten) claim to help with your deflated tire, which according to them is a “punture”. In my opinion, this one can be quite excused, because most of the shop workers are not very well educated.¬† But there are a couple of other misspelled words in use by the purportedly well-educated people, which I simply cannot stand.

Cubicle vs. Cubical

An email I received earlier this week wanted me¬†go to meet someone in her “cubical”# 212.¬† What got me more surprised when I met the person in person is the fact that she was very fluent in the language. This also made conclude that¬†not everyone who is damned good in speaking in¬†English may not necessarily be an expert in writing (the reverse may be true in some cases, too).

Stationery vs. Stationary

Well, either of these words is meaningful in its own context, but what needs more attention here is the fact that the words are often used interchangeably. I wonder why they have to explicitly say it – wouldn’t it be otherwise obvious that the shop that sells “stationery” cannot continue to do so unless it remains¬† “stationary”? ūüôā

Bypass vs. Byepass and Lay-by vs. Lay-bye

Last and definitely the worst, these terms easily get on my nerves. On a recent trip to Chennai by car, I came across a “Truck Laybye” sign every once in a few kilometers on the national highway (NH4).¬† So the drivers are supposed to also say goodbye to every other passerby while “laying by” their trucks eh? ūüėČ Funny! My only request to the highway authorities, or whoever is responsible of creating such signboards is to take little more care and get the texts reviewed by someone who is knowledgeable, before the boards are sent for printing/painting.

It was yet another busy Monday morning ..  After a thorough hardship I had managed to squeeze myself into one of those jam-packed city buses that was trying to beat the rush hour traffic on a typical Bangalore road full of potholes.  The driver looked damn serious and duteous .. poor fellow, he probably did not have an option but to get used to getting caught in such axiomatic traps in life ! More than for his actual work, it is his endurance I would say is what he should be paid for. The conductor was rather a cool-headed guy, one of whose duties, apart from shouting at people, included running up and down to render tickets. As is common with anyone who goes to work after a lazy weekend, every passenger seemed fighting so hard to stay brisk and awake.

As it approached the next major signal, the bus slowed down and came to a complete halt. There was pin drop silence … and that’s exactly when it all happened. Suddenly from nowhere heard the cries of a cat .. “meow meow” and it went on for a while. Had a real kitty been riding on the vehicle all the while for free ? (There was however no guarantee that the creature would disembark all alive from such an overfilled bus – that’s a different story altogether!) The passengers turned their heads around to see where the sound was coming from .. They (inclusive of the “serious-n-duteous” driver that is) grew more and more curious as seconds clicked by.¬†

A lady in her early 40s seated in the third row, totally ignorant of what was happening around her, nonchalantly took out her mobile and started¬†speaking .. and there ended the “meow meow” cries.¬† Aaaahhh¬†! Ok,¬†that was¬†a mobile ringtone ?!! Like me, to most of the people on board, the ringtone must have sounded pretty unusual. The moment it became obvious, everyone including the driver¬†ended up grinning and a handful laughing out loud. Apparently, the lady at once realized the whole thing; it must have made her feel humiliated I guess .. she ended her otherwise long conversation sooner,¬†stuffed the mobile into her already-bulging handbag, and turned her head away from the crowd.¬† But trust me, I am truly in praise of the person who ‘invented’ the ringtone¬†and the one who programmed it – man,¬†it all sounded sooo real!! ūüôā

It was perhaps a moment of embarrassment for a co-passenger, but the incident indeed triggered a lot of smiles and transformed a strenuous Monday morning into a rather pleasant one for most of us in the bus.

Standard English dictionaries¬†define¬†“hospitality” as “the friendly reception and treatment of guests or strangers”.¬† In the modern world, the term seems to have completely lost it is original meaning.¬†For many, it is no longer a¬†discipline, but a profitable business. Hosting grand parties or arranging for luncheon/dinner¬†is only considered¬†being “hospitable” these days. In fact, there is a full-fledged industry, which facilitates the process using standard methodologies leaving little or no¬†burden on the “actual” hosts.

In ancient times, hospitality used to be a sheer responsibility or an ethic any couple in family life dutifully cherished. It was even believed that serving food to guests (and those in need) and taking good care of them is a means of attaining mukti. Besides inculcating moral values, parents of older generations taught their children how to extend welcome to the guests, how to be nice to them, how to behave and be respectful to them.

The other day,¬† I visited a family friend who more or less belongs to my age group. After¬†the customary talks,¬† as I intended to take leave, my friend said “Why don’t you have some coffee/tea”?”.¬†It is not just me, for anyone the very question at this particular juncture would be very humiliating.¬†¬†Unfortunately, for most people, this is what is hospitality is all about.¬†

The fact that only a handful of¬†children of this generation¬†know the meaning of¬†“hospitality” and practise¬†it in¬†life is quite saddening.¬† Parents are the primary role models of their kids and it is in their scope to instill such values in them.¬†I, as a toddler,¬†was always told to¬†greet the invitee with a warm smile, even though he or she at that particular moment was an absolute stranger to me.¬† Now that I have grown into an adult,¬†I seem to completely understand the WHYs of my parents’ instructions. ūüôā

While it is true that, with the changing times,¬†personal safety is fast becoming a question and you are required to be more alert and watchful all the time, it is not all that possible to jubiliantly greet some “stranger” who is at your doorway.¬† But if¬† you are the “daring” type and risk yourself to do so, chances are¬†you are featured in the newspaper headlines the next morning. ūüėČ

On a serious note, people of the modern age must realize that true and well-managed¬†hospitality¬†makes one feel so good and important. They must try to be hospitable¬†at least¬†to their friends, relatives, and all those¬†they very well know.¬† I bet it is not so difficult to bring again into practice “Atithi Devo Bhava” (The guest is god), which had been the tradition in many countries in the world for centuries.

As part of some work, do you find yourself referring to the same document (be it word, pdf, excel sheet etc.) umpteen times? Blame it on your memory power .. and read ahead …

Take a snapshot (or screenshot) of the particular page in the document which contains the reference data and crop it as required with an image manipulation software. Save the image as¬† BMP and set it as your desktop wallpaper. ūüôā It works particularly well for me! If your image editing tool allows it, it is even possible to make a collage of images captured from more than one documents.

For those who do not know how to:

Capture a screenshot and save:

1. Alt + PrtScrn saves the screenshot to the clipboard
2. Paste it in your image editing tool and save it as BMP

Set the wallpaper:

1. Right-click on the desktop
2. Properties > Background > Wallpaper (Choose “Center” display)
3. Browse and select the image
4. Click OK

Note: Setting wallpapers on your desktop might slow down the performance of your computer.

It seemed like the driver of the bus in which I was travelling back from work one day was determined to beat the rush hour traffic. I was so engrossed in reading a novel that I hardly realized that the speed of the vehicle had almost reached that of light. 

When seated in the bus, I have this weird habit of leaving my footwear down and resting my feet on the metal bar fixed (at a very low level) underneath¬† the seat before me. This¬†sort of works as a “comfort zone” for my feet. While others boarding the bus only look to see around if there is a vacant seat, I additionally ensure the presence of this “footrest”. Sadly enough, not every bus provides the “facility”, you see. ūüėÄ

It is not everyday things work wilfully against you and this particular¬†day was just not destined to be so. Minutes later, as the place¬†I was supposed to get down was nearing, I took my feet off my favorite footrest only to find that the footwear was no longer in the place where i left it.¬† Like¬†one of those heroines¬†playing “obsessed-by-love” village girl roles in the south indian cinema, I¬†started making¬†circular movements with my toes¬†on the base in search of the footwear. Alas! It had already gone missing !!! Quite understandable. What else could these poor¬†drivers think of, other than applying hard brakes,¬†when some(thing)body¬†crosses their path¬†while driving in jet speed !!

The moment the hard fact that one of those brakes could have displaced the footwear a bit forward or backward hit me, to the bewilderment of the person sitting next to me, I bent myself down to trace it. Unfortunate, but the search result was only a 404.

My¬†co-passenger must have really pitied me. She voluntarily lent me a helping hand in my “operation footwear hunt”. I could not help but get convinced that her eyesight was incomparably better than mine when she announced¬†“Hey¬†I can see it there”. The place she was pointing at was approximately¬†four¬†seats ahead of where we were. Oh man, these drivers and their skill levels, I thought.

I wholeheartedly thanked the lady, went all the way up to where my footwear had reached and requested the person who was peacefully sitting there to assist me in pulling it out. What an embarassment in life! Though their faces did not explicitly show it, many of the other passengers for sure had fun watching me run around in search of the damned footwear.

Moral of the story I learnt ? Restricting myself¬†to looking for just a vacant seat. ūüôā

This article is primarily targeted at those who intend to know what technical communication is all about … and all those wannabe¬†technical communicators.

Just about every gizmo that you come across ships with a user guide, an operations manual, a reference manual or at a minimum, a quick reference guide . Ever wondered who creates all such supporting material or what amount of efforts/money invested in developing, structuring and formatting these documents? You will be startled to know that there is a huge bunch of befittingly qualified people, called ‚ÄúTechnical Communicators‚ÄĚ behind the scenes, who constantly contribute to making technical products successful in the global markets.

Technical Writing, as this particularly flourishing branch of the software industry is widely called, has witnessed a phenomenal growth, especially since the last decade. With globalization spreading its wings and breaking the international barriers, various multinational IT giants seem to have realized that standardizing the entire flow of technical documentation process based on universally accepted strategies is vital to attaining a competitive edge. As part of this exercise, more effective documentation workflows are formulated with the help of contemporary content management systems (CMS) and publishing technologies.

The key responsibilities of a technical communicator include transforming complex ideas into much simpler chunks of data and present them to technical and non-technical audiences in a specially laid out format. Well, it is not quite easy as it might sound! Starting from analyzing the audience, the technical communicator is involved in every phase of the process, which proceeds through multiple stringent reviews before the work is finally accepted for publication.

By and large, the primary challenge that is faced by any ‚Äúwannabe‚ÄĚ technical communicator is that hardly any reputed university or institute (especially in India) offers courses in technical communication. Most of the aspiring technical communicators master the intricacies of the art on their own.

There is also an ever growing demand for translating technical documents into diverse languages to address the product users from all walks of life spanning the globe. Apart from having writing and translation skills, if the technical communicator has particularly specialized in the subject matter of the document, it is certainly an added advantage.

You will, in a very few years from now, hear more and more aspirants say ‚ÄúI earn my living as a technical communicator‚ÄĚ. It is decidedly a remarkable accomplishment.

Here is re-publishing my¬†artcile that appeared in¬†August 2007 issue of TechCraft, India’s leading eNewsletter on Technical Writing¬†owned by Technical Writers India (TWI)¬†yahoogroup …¬†¬†with due credits to Rahul Prabhakar and team, of course. ūüôā

Our profession as technical communicators entails varied interactions with SMEs on a daily basis. Maintaining amicable relationships with this discerning cluster of the IT fraternity is vital to our success as writers. In this article, I have summarized ten viable techniques to help you win an SME’s heart. Believe me; it hardly takes any ‚Äėextra‚Äô effort to put these into practice.

#1. Smile, smile, and smile – Throw it in abundance, for smile costs you nothing! Apparently, many winning relationships have begun with it. Building a rapport becomes much easier with an affable smile.

#2. Make friends with them – Befriending the SMEs is a technique and it works exceptionally well for me. There can‚Äôt be a ‚Äėtrue‚Äô friend, who disregards you and¬† pays no heed to your pleas; things work out easier when an SME becomes a ‚Äėtrue‚Äô friend of yours. Besides, friends are far more considerate of your shortcomings and receptive to your misconceptions or even ludicrous arguments.

#3 .Respect their time РOn any given day, sparing time for technical communicators will be a passé on an SMEs to-do list. Do not count on them for details of the trivial nature.

#4 .Do the groundwork – Garner all the rudimentary details with the help of search engines, specifications,¬†reports, or historical data. Keep a note of all your doubts and questions, if any.¬†¬† Not only does this technique project you as responsible, but also reduces an SME’s time.

#5 .Communicate effectively РPrior to scheduling a discussion, provide handouts to the SMEs, specifying the  confines of the discussion. Tell them precisely what you want. Let them learn the context in which you are  planning to use their inputs and then get down to brass tacks. Be heedful to finer details on off-the-cuff  conversations.

#6 .Give them their own space – ‚ÄúPiggybacking‚ÄĚ the SMEs only yields negative results. It does not imply you need¬†to hold yourself back, just that you need to give them their space.

#7 .Follow up – When it comes to meeting deadlines, ‚Äúfollowing up‚ÄĚ with an SME becomes critical. Do not be all¬†over the place. Buy their time. They will, under most circumstances, be willing to help you.

#8 .Recognize their efforts РNot just in technical writing, but also in every other walk of life, recognition of efforts is something that everyone covets. Unfortunately, many of us fail to understand the mere fact that due recognition, when combined with genuine words of appreciation works wonders. If not for the SMEs, quality documentation is only partially a reality. Make them realize it! Thank them for their time, and acknowledge their efforts and support with rather inordinate gratitude. The result? You will become their foremost priority the next time you approach them.

#9 .Be assertive –¬†¬† Most of us refuse to be assertive, fearing it will eventually disgust the interaction with an SME. In¬†fact, you are risking the professional relationship already if you are not being assertive. Strive for your rights, while¬†ensuring your susceptible self is not exploited in the process.

#10 .Last, but not the least ‚Ķ For what little it is worth, please remember that attending to a technical communicator is not necessarily part of an SME’s job. Compromising on ‚Äúprofessional ethics‚ÄĚ may not be your cup of tea and very much so for them too. After all, an SME is not specifically rewarded for doing something that you transform into writing for a living.

If I were asked “What can’t you¬†afford to do in job interviews?”, my answer would most certainly cover the following aspects:

#1 . When asked to rate yourself in a particular tool/technology/topic, be fair. Do not overrate, unless you are damn sure you know in and out of the subject in question. Answering this also means that  you are all set to exhibit how skilful you are in the subject, with the questions that follow.

#2 . When you do not know the answer for a question, be polite and say “I am sorry; I am not quite sure”.¬†Beating around the bush or trying to cook up some answer will only create a negative impression on the interviewer(s).

#3 . Some companies require you to fill in the job application form as part of the interview formalities. Take it seriously. In case you have difficulty understanding a particular item or are curious to know what they need a specific detail for, get clarifications from the person concerned. Do remember that the information you provide in the form is carefully scrutinized and could play a vital role in making or breaking your application.

#4 . Lastly, make sure the “expected¬†CTC” you quote is not unrealistically higher than the current one. Do a careful analysis of the current salary trends in the market, check with your friends/colleagues who have similar experience in the¬†industry on what could¬†best fit your qualifications¬†and then take a conscious decision.