President’s Message

This year is off to a roaring start with lots of planning for a variety of events coming up in the next few months.

In January, our AGM & Mixer was held at Bottlescrew Bill’s. Despite the snow that evening, we had a good turnout for our meeting. During the event, we discussed the accomplishments of 2013 and enjoyed the delicious offerings of a new menu. Meanwhile, Edmonton also held an AGM & Mixer. Between the two events, we also held elections where officers stood for re-election; a new candidate stood for Secretary, and all were unanimously (re)elected. “Thanks” goes to out Mitch Willis, our outgoing Secretary and a “Welcome” goes to Stephen Durwael who will take over this role. Another “Thanks” goes to Ruth Maryniuk who served as our Returning Officer.

In February, Calgary will take a page out of Edmonton’s book and host a Coffee Night. Our Programs Manager, Ruth Maryniuk, has been busy gathering speakers for this panel event which is sure to be a success.

In March, we’ll have a Usability Mapping program with a big name in the local oil and gas sector. Klaus Hofer will give us a taste of his popular course during this program night. Get all the details here: March Event

In May, we’ll have a Usability Mapping program with Brian Traynor. Many of us know Brian from our days at Mount Royal and we’re excited to have him share his expertise on Usability Testing. Get all the details here: Event Calendar

In between all that, we will also run the ever-popular Salary Survey. For the current survey, you can visit:

Looking forward to seeing everyone during our exciting program season!

Upcoming in March – Usability Mapping: Safety and Documentation

We are proud to present Klaus Hofer, Principal owner of CAT-i, and a leading expert in the local oil & gas industry, whose training sessions in organizational psychology are the standard for employers of technical communicators in this field.

Klaus will provide us with an overview of his tried-and-tested usability mapping methodology based on two case studies (from Boeing and NASA), of professionally crafted documents that led to disaster. He will explore strategies for usability scoring, navigation, and behavioural reinforcement.

For more information and to register, visit the Events page.

Program Details

  • Date: Thursday, March 20, 2014
  • Time: 6:30 to 9:00 p.m.
  • Location:  Innovate Calgary (IC, formerly called CTI),  3553-31 Street NW, Calgary, Alberta (Map)
  • Directions:IC is in University Research Park just north of the University of Calgary
    • Transit: From Brentwood LRT station, walk across the parking lot to IC
    • Parking: Free visitor parking is available in front of the building
    • Cost: STC Alberta Members, Affiliate Members: $15. Non-Members: $20.

About the presenter: Klaus Hofer

Klaus Hofer is a management consultant who specializes in organizational psychology. His early work in aviation and hospitals led to an interest in cognitive and organizational psychology, and a need to understand: Why can well-trained highly motivated people make deadly errors? His ongoing studies and research in behavioural and cognitive psychology provide the basis for his current work. He researches, consults, and teaches. He has developed a full semester course and corporate workshop, Applied Psychology for Technical Communicators, which was initially presented at the University of Massachusetts in 1986. He has taught multiple variations of the course at several corporations and educational institutions in North America, Asia, and Europe.

Coffee night with a variety of Technical Communicators

Another successful coffee night, What kind of Technical Communicator are you, it was apparent that we are always looking for new ways to make our work efficient, a common thread of wearing multiple hats, and carrying several titles such as: technical writers, editors, instructional designers, information architects, writers, communication specialists, writing coaches, and so on.

Thank you to Innovatia for sponsorship and support for the successful coffee night! Special thanks to all of our panelists for sharing their experience:

  • Caralee Hubbell is a freelance Editor and Writer and current president of CAFÉ,
  • Donna-Lee Wybert, freelance Editor, Writer, Writing Coach, board member CAFE
  • Jennifer Burgess, Technical Editor and Staff Engagement Lead at CH2M Hill
  • Christa Bedwin, Senior Technical Editor at Golder Associates
  • Christina Nielson, independent consultant at Suncor through Innovatia, formerly with Divestco
  • Karen Lowe  independent Technical Writer at Suncor through Innovatia, specialized in DITA, and usability
  • Victoria Clarke, Documentation Manager and Senior Writer: Suncor: through Innovatia
  • Jane Maduke, instructional designer,  Learning consultant at Husky Energy

2013 Top 10 Break Through Technologies

Earlier this year, MIT Technology published a very interesting article that speaks to deep learning, smart watches, big data, etc.  take a look  at the website:

New in the workplace

Author: Sarah McKean is a Technical Writer in Calgary, and a graduate from the University of Calgary’s Arts program, majoring in English Literature

The year following my graduation from University I left my first and only job of nine years and ventured into the corporate world. Through opportunity and circumstance, I ended up being the “new girl” at three different companies that year.

Like many people, I was incredibly nervous both going to the interviews, and then later in my first few weeks with the companies. When I landed my current position, I found that I had lost the majority of the fear I initially had going into a new place. I now had confidence I had developed the necessary skills to prove myself in a new workplace. The crash course I received that year in how to break in to established teams, are lessons that help me both throughout my career, and in everyday life. Here are those lessons:

  • Listen first – If you have any amount of experience in your industry, it is tempting to try and do things the way you are used to, instead of how it is being done at the new place. Before you attempt to put in your two cents of a “better way to do something”, find out why it’s being done the current way in the first place.
  • Keep an open mind about people – While you might be trying to make a great first impression, others may not be so concerned. Someone who grunts out a hello during an introduction may just be having an off day. Reserve your opinions on people until you can give them a fair shot.
  • Invite your team out - Take the initiative to invite your team out to a non-work event. This can still be industry related (such as an STC mixer) because you know there is a common interest. Networking events or even a simple lunch work great as well. Once you have established more of a relationship, invite them out for a more personal event (I love to do a board-game night at my house with just my immediate team and their significant others, but be careful, this may be too-much, too-fast for some people). This last step has helped me better relate to my colleagues and make our conversations more meaningful.
  • Learn something new from your team members- If you can learn even just one new thing from each team member, then it helps to build mutual respect. Everyone is great at something, and showing an interest in that will help you in the long run, and show your colleagues that you appreciate their knowledge and experience.
  • Take part in work events- For me this has been everything from a “snack time” Fridays after work with people I didn’t get to talk with much, helping to plan the holiday party, volunteering with work fundraisers, to even attending the Christmas party after only being employed for a few days! The important thing is you are conversing with your colleagues in person, outside of your normal work parameters.

Maybe you will never need to use these tips, and maybe you will have a year like I did and need to use them often. I can confidently say that the confidence I have gained by realizing these skills were an effective tool for me in alleviating some of the stress when starting with a new company.

Keeping Up with a Technical Writer’s Oldest Tool

Author: Steve Macleod is a Technical Marketing Writer working in Calgary’s oil and gas industry

Thrill seeking technical writers often find themselves in situations most people tend to avoid, such as debating the merits of using a serial comma or researching several documents for evidence of the proper style for spelling internet (or Internet?).

New words and commonly used phrases can creep into documentation long before they become officially ordained as part of the English language by a respected dictionary or style guide. A quick solution is to come to a consensus within your organization and stay consistent throughout all documentation. The folks over at the Oxford University Press, however, are hoping to limit the number of those quick fixes by issuing quarterly updates on revised accepted spellings and new additions to their Oxford English Dictionary and Oxford Dictionaries Online.

The two reference guides from the Oxford University Press combined to add more than 550 words during 2013. Some of the new additions likely won’t have much impact on technical documentation, like twerk (Oxford Dictionaries Online, August 2013), unless you’re storyboarding Miley Cyrus’s next music video. Other updates could have more impact to your writing, especially for technical writers working in Alberta’s energy sector.

The use of hydraulic fracturing has grown considerably in the past decade, and figuring out the proper way to spell the shortened version of the well completion technique has been almost as controversial as the practice itself. Hydraulic fracturing has been written in a variety of iterations, including: fracking, frac’ing, fraccing and fracing. The June 2013 update for the Oxford English Dictionary concluded that fracking is the acceptable spelling.

Keeping up with new technology, tools and trends is an important part of growing as a professional, but monitoring updates to a technical writer’s oldest tool—the English language—is also an essential task for keeping internal style guides current and creating consistency in your organization.


Author: Razvan Ungureanu is an I.T. Communications Professional specializing in software documentation.

Spring is in the air! Or at least this is what I like to think as soon as February ends. Any literature student will remember the term “reverdie”, often encountered in the context of some of the more cheerful poetry studied in university. It’s a time of renewal! I started off the year by renewing my STC membership, updating my resume, and putting a new calendar on my cubicle wall. Spring brings a feeling of revival, and along with the warm weather comes an uplifting of the spirit. I can get a better job! I can reach my goal of being a great technical writer! The warm spring weather blows all stagnation out the window. And yet, it is not easy to commit to these kinds of resolutions. Why is it so hard to maintain that sense of positivity? It is hard because the daily routine sometimes gets the best of us. Instead, I propose that we set aside big goals, and instead we focus on more manageable, small habits this spring.

Appreciate Every Opportunity

As members of the STC, we all have something in common. We either work or want to work in the technical communications field. At our meetings, I met some folks who are excited and very happy about their work. This is great! This provides motivation for those who are still searching for that great technical writing job. I have also met folks who are just starting out. They are looking for a way in. And, of course, there are those somewhere in-between. Maybe their current technical writing job is less than exciting. Maybe they only get to do a little bit of writing when other duties allow it. For anyone “not quite there yet” I suggest making a new habit: capitalize on any writing opportunity you have. Make the most of it! Do you only get to write every three weeks? It’s ok! It’s valuable experience, so make very sure you do an exemplary job.

Stay in Touch with People

Here’s another idea for those who are just starting out: commit to networking. While working on my technical writing certificate, I have seen all kinds of people, from all walks of life. My question for them would be: how many of you have actually kept in touch with your professors? With your colleagues? The certificate is completed in one year. One year is a very short time to establish long-lasting connections. This spring, as part of your renewed attitude and drive, start reconnecting with people. I’m not a Calgary native, but after three years of living here, I can already tell you it is a small city. You will eventually run into those very people you saw in your classes, or at those STC meetings, workshops, and other events. It’s wise to keep in touch.

Don’t Forget the Basics

Finally, read more, and write in your spare time if you don’t get to do it at the office. Practice makes perfect. Much like an artist’s creations are superficial when the underlying message lacks depth, so is the work of technical writers and communicators who don’t keep their skills sharp. While technology is central to technical writing, an excess of attention to gadgets may render the mind dull. Put away the iPhone, close Facebook, and turn off your tablet. Netflix can wait too. Take a pen and a blank sheet of paper and write the old fashioned way. If, like most of us, you write mostly on computers, you will be surprised what the slower process of writing by hand can reveal. Same goes for reading. Forget that RSS news feed, Twitter, and news apps. Pick up a book that allows you to dedicate your attention to only one things at a time, without any distractions and notifications. This is great for the mind, and a sharp mind results in better writing and clear communication. It will also remind you how much you’ve come to rely on spellcheck, and it will enrich your vocabulary.

These are just a few thoughts about channeling the renewing energy of spring into something positive, both professionally and individually. Make the most of every written piece you have to put together, and your portfolio will grow. Stay in touch with the people you met along the way, either in school or at work. Allow yourself to slow down and go back to the basics of simply reading and writing the old fashioned way. It’s easy to get carried away with big goals that seem hard to achieve, so why not just take time to work on the small things before letting the big ones bring you down? Much like an empire is a giant with feet made of mud, so is one’s life. Take care of the basics, pay attention to the foundation, and the rest will follow.

Aboriginal Writing Guideline for Canadian Businesses and Not-for-profit

Author: Jennifer Burgess is a Technical Editor and Staff Engagement Lead

As an editor, I’ve noticed companies and groups I work with often don’t have consistent guidelines for language referring to Aboriginal people and bands. There’s frequently confusion about when and how to use phrases like First Nations, Indians, and Inuit. There are a few media-created guidelines, like The Globe and Mail Style Guide; however, they have a national focus and do not address issues specific to Alberta. Many companies have Aboriginal Engagement programs but they do not consider basic communication standards needed to engage with these communities. And if communication standards are considered, there is no easy way to access this information in one place. Following is a compilation of various guidelines, with a complete list in the references section. This article is intended to be a starting point for discussion not an authoritative reference.


The Department of Aboriginal Affairs and Intergovernmental Relations (DAAIR) defines Aboriginal Peoples as: “The descendants of the original peoples of Canada.” Section 35 (2) of the Constitution Act, 1982 defines the Aboriginal peoples of Canada as Indians, Inuit, and Métis. The term “Aboriginal” is commonly used when referring to the three groups of indigenous peoples as a whole. It is a broad term that refers to several different groups of people and technically is interchangeable with the terms “Native” and “Indian.” The Globe and Mail Style Guide claims native leaders advocate the terms “Aboriginal” and “Aboriginal person,” but the terms “Native” and “Indian” are still used by the vast majority of Native people themselves. However, other sources suggest First Nations groups feel this term attempts to assimilate many different groups into one. It is best to be as specific as possible when referring to these groups.

All sources, including the Canadian Oxford Dictionary, emphasize this word should be capitalized and only used as an adjective, never as a proper noun. The Public Works and Government Services Translation Bureau also recommends using Aboriginal people(s) in Canada, not Aboriginal Canadians. The Canadian Press capitalizes “peoples” in Aboriginal Peoples.

First Nations

The Canadian Oxford Dictionary defines First Nations as: “1. The North American Indian peoples of Canada, considered collectively; 2. A particular community of Canadian Indians, esp. one recognized as an administrative unit by the federal government.” Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada refers to First Nations people as status and non-status “Indian” peoples in Canada. The Canadian Press Stylebook also includes “Treaty Indians” in this term. However, The Globe and Mail Style Guide suggests this term is misleading because it implies a much larger group than the term technically includes. Keep in mind the term First Nations has no legal definition, so it should not be used in formal documents.

Most sources consistently capitalize First Nations, however the Globe and Mail does state, “When we do use first nation, it is lower-case unless we are giving a band’s formal name: the Kettle Point First Nation.”


This term was first used in a legal context in Section 91 (24) of the Constitution Act, 1867, which gives the federal government responsibility for “Indians, and Lands reserved for the Indians.” The AP Stylebook states the use of American Indian or Native American is acceptable for those in the US; however, it does not refer to the term’s use in Canada. The Globe and Mail claims it is an acceptable term to use to distinguish Indians from other native groups. However, it does seem to be falling out of use. The Oxford English Dictionary confirms this, stating it is being replaced in non-legal contexts with First Nations. The Canadian Press Stylebook suggests using it with discretion.


The Canadian Press Stylebook suggests this is another term for Aboriginal. It does not capitalize the terms, although the Public Works and Government Services Translation Bureau prefers “Indigenous people(s).” This term is very general and a more specific term, like First Nations, Inuit, Métis, or a specific band name should be used instead whenever possible.


The DAAIR defines Inuit as: “the Aboriginal people of Arctic Canada [...] The word ‘Inuit’ means ‘the people’ and is the term by which Inuit refer to themselves.” This term is specific to Canada, other Northern communities use slightly different phrases to describe themselves. It has replaced the pejorative word Eskimo, which is only now appropriate to use when referring to the dog breed. The singular form is “Inuk.” Inuit and Inuk should always be capitalized.


Native is a word generally synonymous with Aboriginal. According to the Globe and Mail, Native leaders are pushing the use of “Aboriginal” but most Aboriginal people themselves still use “Native.” Most technical and formal documents would use Aboriginal. Like Aboriginal, Native is an adjective not a noun, i.e., Native people(s) not Natives.

General Guidelines

Bands are in lowercase unless referring to a specific name. Do not use reservation, which refers to American Indian groups.

There are many different Aboriginal languages, be careful not to imply they are the same or say someone is “speaking Indian.”

Terms like igloo, tupek, umiak, teepee, hogan, longhouse, and totem can contribute to stereotypes so make sure the description is accurate. Do not use insulting terms such as squaw, buck, brave, papoose, Indian list, and Indian-giver.

Creation of a plural possessive when referring to Aboriginal groups is possible only when using English plurals (e.g., the Mohawks’ religion). For non-English names, treat the name as an adjective (i.e., the Gitxsan religion) or resort to a phrase (i.e., the religion of the Gitxsan, practiced by the Gitxsan).


Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada. Accessed January 31, 2014. Government of Canada.

An Evolving Terminology Relating to Aboriginal Peoples in Canada. 2002. Communications Branch. Indian and Northern Affairs Canada. October.

Canadian Oxford Dictionary. 2nd ed. 2004. Oxford University Press.

Department of Aboriginal Affairs and Intergovernmental Relations (DAAIR). Accessed January 31, 2014. Government of the Northwest Territories.

Schertow, John Ahni. Anishinabek Outlaw Term ‘Aboriginal’.2008. IC Magazine. Accessed December 20, 2013.

TERMIUM Plus. Public Works and Government services Translation Bureau. Government of Canada. Accessed January 31, 2014.

The Associated Press Stylebook. 2013. The Associated Press.

The Globe and Mail Style Guide. Online Edition. Accessed January 31, 2014.

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