Undiscovered Country: Master Writer

Presented by Sharon Burton

Overview

Even the most experienced technical communicators don’t always think about information design until they lay the words out in a paper or online document. By then, it’s too late. Information design is much more than using headings and white space in your documents. Real information design starts before you write a word.

This compressed scheduled, five-session online course in information design first covers how people learn, think, and structure information in their minds, as well as the nature of reality, and perception. Then, we examine taxonomies, schemas, and shared feature analyses. This course uses group activities and hands-on exercises to help participants apply the theories and ideas presented.

Each session includes at least an hour lecture and as well as assignments and readings to do in your own time that support the lecture for that week. You’ll finish the course with a deeper understanding of why we do some of what we do and how to better help your users.

Learning Objectives
  • Learn how to structure our writing to best meet our users’ needs.
  • Discover how to find out about our users and how to apply that knowledge in user assistance.
  • Learn how people structure the world in their heads and how that might impact learning.
  • Learn how the human memory works, the limits of cognitive loads, and how this impacts learning

Session Descriptions

Structuring Information

TBD
5:30–7:00 PM EST (GMT-5)

Learn how to structure writing to best meet the users' needs.

  • Good writing:
    • What is it?
    • How do we get it?
  • Write for doing.
  • Minimalism and how it impacts you.
  • Chunking information.
  • Layering information for multiple audiences.

Audience Analysis, Part I

TBD
5:30–7:00 PM EST (GMT-5)

Discover how to find out about our users and how to apply that knowledge in user assistance.

  • Personas:
    • What are they?
    • How do you get one?
    • How many do you need?
    • How do you use them?
  • Scenarios
  • Identifying and supporting multiple styles:
    • VARK
  • How to find out about these people:
    • Surveys
    • How to create
    • How many do you need?
    • How to abstract information from survey questions.

Audience Analysis, Part II

TBD
5:30–7:00 PM EST (GMT-5)

Discover how to find out about our users and how to apply that knowledge in user assistance.

Cognition Overview

TBD
5:30–7:00 PM EST (GMT-5)

Learn how people structure the world in their heads and how that might impact learning.

  • Why we deal with the world the way we do
  • Why we care
  • How this impacts what we do
  • What does this mean for user assistance?

In-depth Cognitive Science

TBD
5:30–7:00 PM EST (GMT-5)

Discover how the human memory works, the limits of cognitive loads, and how this impacts learning.

  • Cognitive loads
  • Human memory
  • Structuring the world
  • Language and Taxonomies
  • Schemas and other last stuff

Presenter Biography

Sharon Burton is a nationally recognized practitioner, business expert, teacher, and speaker in the field of technical communication. With almost 20 years of experience in the field, she has consulted with large and small companies to improve their product documentation and/or their documentation processes. Sharon has received many awards from organizations such as the Society for Technical Communication (STC) and Apex, including the designation of Associate Fellow from STC.

Before becoming product manager/product evangelist with Author-it, she held the same position at MadCap Software; prior to that she was technical publication manager at a large company in Southern California where she built a team of 13 writers. Prior to that position, Sharon owned and ran Anthrobytes Consulting for 10 years.

Sharon is also a PhD candidate in Cultural Anthropology and an adjunct professor in the engineering department at the University of California, Riverside, where she teaches technical communications to young engineers. An occasional newspaper columnist, her articles on life in Southern California have appeared in the Los Angeles Times and the Inland Empire Weekly.

What They're Saying

"This STC course opened my eyes. I had not received formal training in writing, let alone technical writing. The writers in our department who completed the course have benefited from your knowledge. We have a new outlook on our next steps."
     —L. T.