BBC – Culture – The language the government tried to suppress

Most of Singapore’s population speak the unofficial language or dialect known as Singlish. But why would the government rather it went away? James Harbeck takes a look.

Source: BBC – Culture – The language the government tried to suppress

This is a fascinating article. Or at least it’s fascinating to me, since I’m always interested in the various dialects–or in this case, reinventions–of English. All dialects of English (or any other language, for that matter) has differences that make it unique to that region. But to see this variation of English that’s combining other languages much more heavily to create a new language–I haven’t seen that before or seen it explained before as it is in this article. I’ve seen this sort of thing when reading Facebook posts from friends who are in either India or the Phillipines, mixing English with other languages. Those posts would never make sense to me, but they evidently do to the speakers in those countries.  Even in North American English (meaning in American and Canadian English), we definitely have words that come from our Spanish-speaking and French-speaking neighbors as part of our vocabulary, as well as several words from Irish Gaelige, Dutch, and other languages that have blended into our own, but not so much that it’s a true variation like what’s explained here.

Is this the evolution of a new language? Or is the Singaporan hierarchy correct that “Singlish” and “English” are not the same, and try to maintain English as a primary, structured language? It’s a hard call to me. On one hand, this seems like a natural evolution. But at the same time, when trying to educate children to communicate in school and in business outside of Singapore, something closer to some sort of standard English will help them out more.

What do you think? Read the article, and include your comments below.


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Canon–you need better tech writers

In the last week, I have purchased two new (to me) pieces of technology. The first was an upgrade to an iPhone SE from my iPhone 5S.  I decided not to get the iPhone 7 because I had some serious issues with the new phone jack setup. So, when deciding between a 6S and an SE, there were few differences between them, and I’m used to the size of the SE. The few extra features on the 6S that the SE didn’t have weren’t deal-breakers for me–I could do without them. With a lower price as well, the SE was a better deal for me. The one feature I’m thrilled to use right now on my new phone is Apple Pay. I’m having a lot of fun with that! It’s linked to the main credit card that I always use, so there’s no difference in my purchasing that way, but it came in handy today when I went food shopping. My husband had driven the family to the supermarket, and I realized in rushing out the door, I had only brought my phone with me, and not my change purse. No matter! At the supermarket, I just had to provide my phone number for my frequent buyer card, and then use my Apple Pay to pay for the groceries. SUCCESS! I was thrilled.

The other piece of technology that I got was a new color inkjet printer. We have an old laser printer at home, but it’s a monochrome one. It serves us well for most things, but when I really need a color item printed, I’m out of luck.  As the STC-PMC projects and for my own business and family usage, it was time to replace the old color inkjet printer that was at least 11 years old by now and get a wireless color inkjet printer that we could all use with our various desktops, laptops, and mobile devices.  I did my research, and settled on a Canon PIXMA model, as they seemed to be the most affordable and best rated for the price range. I picked it up at my local Best Buy electronics store, and happily set it up to be a wireless printer that could print from any device in the house.

I was quite please with myself that I had done this…until I tried to print something. I kept getting an error saying that the output tray wasn’t open. Huh? I looked at the back, and opened one thing that I thought would be the output area. Nope. I closed it, and it didn’t work. I looked at the “Getting Started” literature that I used to do the entire setup–scouring to see if I had missed a step. Nope. No mention of an output tray.  I went online to look for a manual or some sort of help for this error. Didn’t get any farther with that. I finally did some more searching through Google, and finally–FINALLY–came up with this:

(If you can’t see the embedded video, it’s at

Seriously! It was that simple. I didn’t even notice that little tray, and I was fumbling as long as she was and was STILL stuck. I’m not that dumb–I’ve been around various printers and copiers since I was a teenager. I’d be the person that people around the office would call to un-jam the machine if there were problems, and usually fixed the problems. How could I have missed this? Well, first of all, the tray blends into the rest of the printer case that it’s easy to not notice it.  Second–and most importantly–THE INSTRUCTIONS NEVER POINTED OUT WHERE IT WAS LOCATED. I’m a technical communicator–I know to actually READ the instructions and manual to find something, or how to scour a company’s website for information. When you look at the error codes and solutions on the Canon site, it just says that if you receive the error, you open the tray, but they don’t give a visual of where it’s located at all.  If you watch this video, the narrator expresses exactly what I was experiencing, and it was only this video that helped me solve the problem! This video–or something like it–should be on the Canon website!

Once I fixed this little problem, my new printer works beautifully, and I’m happy with it. But seeing this grave mistake on Canon’s part…yeah. It made me wonder why that crucial piece of information was left off the quick start, when there’s room for it on the instructions. Even a small diagram showing the different parts of the printer somewhere would’ve been good. It was bad from a technical writing standpoint, but it’s also bad from a marketing standpoint. If it wasn’t for this non-corporate video, the brand loyalty that was forming would’ve been dust almost instantly. That’s bad for Canon, and bad for consumers.

Canon, I’m looking for a full-time gig, so if you need someone to audit and rewrite your information to catch things like this, contact me. Seriously. I mean it. When I looked at your community support, it turned out that your best suggestion was that you had to return the machine for a refurbished replacement? Um, no, this is an easy problem to fix, and yet you probably could get a lot fewer calls and send fewer replacement printers if you just showed this tiny piece of information.

What do you think, fellow technical writers? I know Canon makes a lot of products, and they have a good reputation, but wouldn’t this be an easy fix on their website, just to add this video to that troubleshooting solution on their site? Let me know what you think in the comments.

(And thank you to Karen Nieto for posting the solution on YouTube! You are a wonderful person for doing so, and I greatly appreciate it!)

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John E. McIntyre’s trigger warning about taking his editing class- Baltimore Sun

Take a seat, school’s back in session. Here’s John E. McIntyre’s “trigger warning” to new students at his editing class at Loyola University Maryland.

Source: John E. McIntyre’s trigger warning – Baltimore Sun

I highly, highly encourage you to watch the video in this link, especially if you’ve ever taken an editing class.  This reminded me SO much of what I had to go through in the technical editing course that I took at NJIT with Dr. Norbert Elliot.  He’s retired now, but his lessons definitely live on! I showed this to one of my classmates from the class, and she said this was exactly how she imagined Dr. Elliot in her imagination, but with a different appearance, naturally.  I spent many weekends and weeknight pouring over texts. Our usual assignment would center on a particular common grammatical error, such as the use of commas. We’d be provided eight to ten sentences, which we would not only edit, but we had to give citations from various grammar rule books–such as the Chicago Manual of Style–and explain WHY it was wrong. It was NOT an easy class by any means, but I eeked out an A, and it was one of the first grades I received in grad school.

Did you have an editing class that was similar to what this gentleman was teaching or what I experienced? Did it help you as a technical communicator (I know it helped me!)? Share your experiences in the comments below.


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Microsoft Wants Autistic Coders. Can It Find Them And Keep Them? | Fast Company | Business + Innovation

Job interviews can be especially hard if you’re autistic. A Microsoft effort aimed at a wider spectrum of the workforce wants to solve that.

Source: Microsoft Wants Autistic Coders. Can It Find Them And Keep Them? | Fast Company | Business + Innovation

This article, posted originally by Microsoft Careers on Twitter, excited me. I could related to this article on so many levels, especially with the non-disclosure part, and the tracing my route before I got there. I did that yesterday with my son for school. We were allowed to come in a day early, see his schedule, and do a dry run of his day, meeting the teachers one-on-one rather than a busy, hectic, first day with all the kids. Thank goodness we did that–his bus never showed up, so I had to drive him to his school, and he was a half an hour late. At least he knew where to go. Even on the way home, I knew that a place where I may be interviewing was nearby, so I passed by on our way home, just so I knew where to go when the time comes.

Microsoft really did an excellent job with this article, and appropriately told the good and the bad of being an autistic employee. Autistic people usually are very good with technical things, so naturally a fit with Microsoft makes sense. The method they use of letting the candidates hang out and help for a few weeks before the real interview is something I wish all employers did with employees. I know I’d benefit from it, for sure! I hope that other companies adopt similar plans for autistic workers, whether they are coders or tech writers or anything else. It gives me hope that my son has a chance to get into a job that can be fulfilling to him, if he chooses (he’s more of a computer hardware guy, but still–there’s a need for guys like him, too, at a place like Microsoft!).

Read this, and let me know what you think in the comments below.


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Taking On the Ph.D. Later in Life –

As doctoral programs become more flexible and students seek to enhance or change their careers, enrollment of older adults grows.

Source: Taking On the Ph.D. Later in Life –

Thanks to Craig Cardimon for posting this on LinkedIn.

I hope this trend of flexible PhDs continues. Just a couple days ago, both my husband and I were commenting that if money were no object, and we were retired or hit the lottery, we’d both want to go back to school, and I would love to get my PhD. Right now, it wouldn’t be for professional reasons, as a Masters degree seems to be fine for now.  But to get a PhD in Technical Communications would be cool. I also wouldn’t mind getting an advanced degree in linguistics or history either.

I’m willing to bet that as more PhD programs take on an online presence (there’s only one PhD in tech comm online, namely at Texas Tech, as far as I know), and hopefully become more affordable, more folks will not only sign up for the programs, but also people over 40 (like me and many others I know) might be more willing to go for it.  There are several great online degrees on a Master’s level or graduate certificate level in tech comm and instructional design.  Check out my Educational Resources pages for some leads if you are interested, or let me know if I’m missing a program that I can add to the list (or update)!

Would you consider going back for a PhD in a discipline? If so, what would it be? Let us know in the comments below.


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Unspoken English rules

Now here’s something that’s been making the rounds among some of my friends on Facebook regarding an unspoken rule when speaking about adjectives: 

I really had never thought about it, but this is right. It makes me wonder if there are similar “unspoken” rules in English, but if there are also similar rules to this in other languages. This might be why other languages can be a little confusing to native English speakers.

Those of you who are bilingual or multilingual, what patterns have you noticed like this one–unspoken rules, but it’s correct grammar–in other languages?  Post your comments below. 

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Off the wall presentations featuring Ben Woelk – Content Content podcast episode 11 – ed marsh dot comed marsh dot com

Ben Woelk, technical communicator and Information Security Office Program Manager at the Rochester Institute of Technology, talks about being an introverted leader and how it’s changed his career and his passion. Mentioned during this episode Ben Woelk on Twitter STC … Continue reading →

Source: Off the wall presentations featuring Ben Woelk – Content Content podcast episode 11 – ed marsh dot comed marsh dot com

That’s right! Ed’s got another webisode of ContentContent up, and this time, it’s with Ben Woelk! Ben was one of the first people I met when I first got involved with the STC, and he’s been one of the great mentors I’ve had within STC ever since then.  I remember him putting me at ease at my first STC Summit because I was rather shy and hardly knew anyone, and he was awesome in assuring me that all would be well–and he was right.  His take on introverted leadership has been catching like wildfire in the last year, as I think he’s tapped into something that many technical communicators grapple with–how to be a leader when you are an introverted person.

Take a listen, and let Ed know what you think about the webisode!


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