Date: Oct 11th, 2004 Tel: 01235 60 30 22
Software manuals get user-friendly makeover from award winning technical authoring company.
BERKSHIRE, OCTOBER 11TH, 2004 - Unlike his horror writer namesake, Dr Stephen King of Plain Words is unsung. But in his own field - technical writing - he has just received a prestigious accolade for his work on an online Help system for geographic information systems (GIS) specialists ESRI UK.
In a unanimous decision by judges, the Institute of Scientific and Technical Communicators (ISTC), a non-profit body, awarded King first prize in the "Class 2B" category for online Help systems. The awards ceremony was held in a hotel in Thame, Oxfordshire, on Saturday evening.
Basingstoke-based King says his knack of making software documentation genuinely user-friendly is down to putting himself in the user's shoes.
"Online Help is often written by programmers, who build software, which means it is overly technical and not accessible to the general user," he says. "That's where bringing in a professional writer like me makes all the difference. I put myself in the mindset of the user and explain how an application works in plain, everyday English."
Janet Basdell, founder and managing director of documentation firm Plain Words, is passionate about changing the often negative public perception of computer manuals and Help systems and is careful to hire the best writers she can find.
"Before we take on an author at Plain Words we put them through a stringent writing test to make sure they really can communicate technical information in a user-friendly way," she says. "Stephen King is a very good example of our authors - he can put complex concepts across clearly and concisely."
Stephen King points out that creating good online Help isn't only about words: "It's about making sure the look of it is clean and uncluttered, and that it is clearly branded to the company or corporation that manufactures the product."
Gavin Ireland, president of the ISTC, a non-profit organisation founded over 50 years ago to set and improve standards in scientific and technical writing, sees the awards as an important event in the technical field.
"They're the documentation world Oscars, only not as glamorous!" he says. "They show that real standards are being set to make the documentation that goes with software and other equipment accessible and easy-to-digest."
Note: Photos of the awards ceremony are available.
(Managing Director Plain Words)
1 Mill Paddock, Abingdon
Oxon OX14 5EU.
Tel: 01235 60 30 22
(Award-winning technical author)
Tel: 01235 60 30 22
Plain Words is a Berkshire-based technical and business writing, training, and recruitment firm, that has contracts with leading technology firms, as well as with government agencies.
The Institute of Scientific and Technical Communicators is a non-profit organisation founded over 50 years ago to set and improve standards in scientific and technical writing. See: www.istc.org.uk