Designers’ Dilemma

30 Jan

About this time last year, I watched this video in my Capstone course on Technical and Professional Communication. It perfectly illustrates the real life nightmare that designers and other various types of freelancers often encounter.

Having had experience as a piano teacher for a few years, I could already relate to challenges with clients. It’s easy for enthusiasm to drown our reality when people become motivated to send their children to learn to play the piano. Remarkable weekly progress is expected, or the teacher is to blame and the child gets moved on to another teacher. Unfortunately, as exciting as it is to begin piano lessons, a child doesn’t become the next Mozart after a 30-minute lesson introducing the fundamentals of reading music.

Professionals know these kinds of things and have to learn how to communicate them to everyone involved while maintaining their professionalism, credibility, and ultimately, their business.

It’s easy for clients to underestimate, and essentially, devalue an individual’s services, and this can be hard for the professional to not take personally. However, creating and adhering to firm policies and procedures that provide benefits to everyone involved– especially in regards to monetary compensation–establishes a standard of fairness for both the professional and the client.

Just as with teaching piano, a lot of work is involved in tailoring information to people’s needs– whether it’s through building websites, writing, editing, designing graphics, filming, etc.

It’s important that professionals receive compensation for the services they provide because…

1. This is fair to the professional who does the work.

2. This usually eliminates most of those unrealistic expectations a client may be inclined to having about any extraneous details regarding the progress of the project.

Mission Statement

18 Jan

I’m in the process of setting up my own professional writing services, and part of my initial planning was to come up with a mission statement for my business (or myself, really). So this is what I came up with a couple of months ago–thought I might share. :)

 

As a writer and designer, my mission is to present rhetoric in the most necessary and practical ways through the crafting of purposeful language and design. My passions for constructing and enhancing clear communication will be directed to improve quality in the professional world and in personal relationships. I will use my gifts as tools for embracing, channeling, and projecting the dreams, hopes, goals, and needs of others as richly meaningful components of humanity and as part of our intellectually advancing society. My ultimate goal is to reveal the treasure of human differences in skills, abilities, and values and help the world become a generally more appreciative, respectful, and harmonious environment.

Displaying Professionalism

16 Jan

Recently I rejoined Facebook. I thought it might also be a good time to rejoin my technical writing blog! A lot has happened over the past year. I’ve graduated from Auburn University, I’ve pursued many things, failed many attempts, and ultimately I have succeeded at becoming a strong person.

Finding a technical writing job these days appears to be unusually difficult. For the past seven months, I have fervently tried to land a technical writing position and have even opened up my desired location to nearly anywhere (in the whole world). I’ve also considered numerous alternative routes that I might enjoy if I cannot obtain the technical writing experience I am seeking. On top of all of this, I have tweaked or completely redone my résumé more times than I can count, and I have probably spent at least a week’s worth of hours on the cover letters I’ve written to potential employers.

I catch the occasional news that a former classmate who always did only enough to get by in school has landed a position that would be a dream to me. Sometimes people randomly land jobs that they know I am qualified and hunting for and shamelessly remind me of their inexperience or lack of training/qualification. I want to be happy for them, but this is hard to endure when I am still left unemployed and continuing to somehow end up getting interviews with or rejections from the absolute most unprofessional companies and individuals. Seriously…where do these people come from?

….want 2 work 4 me????

I want to encourage everyone in the professional world to step it up. If you are not interested in hiring someone, tell them. If you are, tell them. And have some tact.

For as long as I can even remember, older people have complained about younger people. From music to morals to politics… to methods of communication. How many baby boomers have griped about the way young people have no respect or sense of work ethic? Sure, every generation brings new things to the table, so of course we’re going to be different. My generation is already starting to dislike next generation, so it’s apparently pretty normal. However, I think whatever standards we portray as our own should be the ones we follow.

If you have preconceived notions of me as disrespectful, lazy, or simply incapable because I am young, that does not give you an automatic right to disrespect me, devalue my time and interest, or degrade my education and experiences. Besides, the whole point of the process is to get to know each other and then make a judgment, not the other way around. To make a hiring decision based on your perception of me solely in regards to the phase of life that I am in is wrong. Though it is mostly attributed to older people, in the professional world here in America, it is called “age discrimination”… and it is a crime.

My purpose in this post in not to vent about my unfortunate job searching experiences–though it is nice to let it all out from time to time–but I really intend to enlighten others on the importance of setting an example of the standards you hold others to. The hard work and extended period of time I’ve searched would not be so bad if most of it hadn’t turned out to be a large waste of my time.

If you are in a position of authority and expect to hire someone who is dedicated, timely, capable, and kind… be that. Don’t expect to employ that outstanding person if you will not first present that person in yourself. After all, YOU are the leader.

Designing portfolios

12 Apr

A portfolio should represent a person’s very best work pertaining to the interest he or she is using the portfolio to pursue. The portfolio should give a potential employer an idea of what benefits they might gain from the individual in a way that might even inspire them to help the individual search for further ways to enhance his/her skills.

In our studies on audience analysis, we learned about different motives of discourse. Graves’ book gave Beale’s model as an illustration to show that documents can be designed for two or more purposes, though one purpose may dominate the others. The main goal in designing a portfolio is to persuade someone that you are a qualified and capable person in a certain field of knowledge. The portfolio should essentially demonstrate to a potential employer how much you value not only yourself, but them as well.

The general appearance of a portfolio can significantly alter a potential employer’s impression of the individual as a worker and as a person. A clean, organized, and overall aesthetically pleasing portfolio will set the stage for how a person will interpret the actual content of the portfolio.

Reverting to the importance of audience analysis, it will depend on the situation (what type of job a person is applying for) to know how to prepare the portfolio for the people who will review it. Some items may be more relevant than others in the pursuit of certain positions, so adjusting the contents of the portfolio may be necessary to best suit the needs of the potential employer.

Regardless of the situation, however, the language throughout the portfolio should be clear and concise. In the real world, most working people have a lot of things to do and would rather not have to sit down and do someone else’s work, so it’s important to clarify everything throughout a portfolio so the potential employer will have the facts they need.

Catering to the audience’s needs in designing a portfolio is most important because the very purpose of a portfolio is to appeal to its audience.

Writing styles

29 Mar

Different characteristics of a writing style are used to guide the minds of the readers to come to certain understandings and conclusions. Charles Bazerman’s essay, “Codifying the Social Scientific Style,” from The Rhetoric of Human Sciences explains, as an example, the development of the APA style through time and how authors have used it to influence readers’ perceptions.

Since people are constantly changing in ways of thinking and believing, writing styles constantly change to keep up with people’s trends. Bazerman discusses this at the beginning of his essay when he defines writing style as “a human accomplishment,” which “must be constantly reevaluated and remade as the human world changes” (125). Shaping information in this way, attempting to be clear enough for the reader by relating to them in some way, creates a layer of pathos, which is needed from the very beginning to the end of any work that is intended to be taken seriously.

Other aspects of writing can be incorporated into writing styles to work on readers simply through good pathos. Even an author’s word choices and phrasing can create a flow of thought for the audience that appeals to the mind and makes the information in general easier to follow. An author’s effort to make their writing easier for readers to understand or be interested in can make all the difference. Whether readers are consciously aware of it or not, if the author doesn’t respect the reader, then the reader will not respect the author.

The structure involved in writing styles can provide a sense of respect for the readers just because good organization creates a clean, intelligent appearance. For example, as we discovered in class one day, it’s easy to glance at a scientific report without actually reading it and assume it’s a reliable source because it’s so well-formatted. However, the author’s flow of thought in the writing is also highly important in establishing pathos.

Bazerman points out that readers are usually interested in a subject before reading about it, so authors tend to present the information from a general perspective first and then relate it to the specifics (132). Writing that assumes the readers are interested makes it more likely that they will actually be interested and fall into the author’s guidance. Writing styles work in this way to at least hook the reader from the beginning and keep them interested.

Second thoughts

20 Mar

For an assignment in a Topics of Medicine in Literature class, I was asked to choose from a selection of articles and write an essay based on its relation to the things studied and discussed throughout the semester. I chose the introduction to Elaine Scarry’s “The Body in Pain,” a much more challenging read than I had anticipated. After reading Donald E. Carlston’s essay, “Turning Psychology on Itself,” from The Rhetoric of the Human Sciences, I considered how Scarry went about making an argument to determine exactly how her writing influenced mine.

Carlston’s essay suggests that there are three levels of interaction between rhetoric and social psychology: The words that are chosen impact people’s thinking; Theorizing is done through metaphorical story-telling; And “…facts rarely speak for themselves, so scientists are required to speak for them” (146).

This interaction was easily seen in Scarry’s writing and even reflected in my response to it. The role of rhetoric in Scarry’s writing was to persuade someone to understand the subject of pain in certain ways. She used examples—or as Carlston would call it, “metaphorical-story-telling”—and particular terms to create meaning.

The end of Carlston’s essay focuses particularly on how argument works. The structure of the argument and the audience’s level of personal involvement contribute to the persuasiveness of the argument. In my response to Scarry’s writing, I noticed that I had a tendency to agree with what I was writing about. This could mean that I had been affected by a number of things discussed in Carlston’s essay. I was “ignorant” of the argument Scarry made, as I had never heard it before. And, of course, any time I read/hear anything about people in pain, war, torture, etc., I feel “sympathetic”—a state that Carlston claims makes a person more involved with and accepting of or vulnerable to a message (155).

Basically, various characteristics of Scarry’s argument led me to have a particular understanding that was in harmony with her argument. Considering that I could have been misguided to a particular understanding, it could be useful for me to look into sources that offer other perspectives on the concept of pain, torture, and war to gain another understanding so that I can judge whether my paper is one-sided and how I can revise it.

Academic writing

13 Feb

Materials that present academic knowledge have a formality that drives the information being presented in the direction that the author wants it to go. The authors of textbooks and various academic materials are usually people with advanced educations and experience within the field they are discussing, which gives them status/authority, a reason for people to believe them. An authoritative tone paired with an exciting concept or a logical direction of thought can automatically instill a measure of faith in the reader. References to other sources of knowledge, such as other books or articles written by other highly educated people, will also establish an author’s ethos. Because of these things, we as readers tend to take the information as fact.

Spurious Coin offers some perspectives that challenge readers to see the craft(s) of academic writing—that there is a good side and bad side. Most of what we’ve read so far shows that often in times past, people used authority in language to convey knowledge. In other words, those who were considered superior supposedly had all the facts and acted as mediators between their subordinates and knowledge. For example, a teacher had a position of authority by having the only book because the students could only listen to what the teacher said and not be able to see the text for themselves (47). Situations like those of the past allowed temptation for scholarly people to manipulate the minds of the less educated through art of language. Conditions have improved over the centuries, and an emphasis has shifted more toward science rather than social hierarchy as a basis for knowledge, but manipulation still exists.

I’ve noticed that—in many of my psychology books, especially—when writers don’t have supporting information to back up their claims, they will themselves create means of justification in order to maintain their credibility. Even if the information turns out to be true, they’re still using a dishonest approach.

Academic writing involves some measure of persuasion to convince the reader of what is being presented or explained, and good writers use it well to support facts. However, where facts are not grounded or are simply not there, people sometimes go overboard with persuasion, attempting to promote themselves or potentially false information, sadly, undermining the craftsmanship of academic writing. So, although academic writing generally is structured to present truth, it’s always important to double check the content.