“The rules concerning the use of apostrophes in written English are very simple”

  1. They are used to denote a missing letter or letters
  2. They are used to denote possession …
    however, if there are two or more things the apostrophe comes after the ‘s’
  3. Apostrophes are NEVER ever used to denote plurals!

You can read the full version over at The Apostrophe Protection Society, which is where I first saw it.

Update: here is a poster which illustrates it very well.

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Applying the Four Key Pillars

In my last documentation post, I talked about the 4 Key Pillars of writing user documentation.  This post is about how to apply those Four Pillars.

  1. FIND the information they want, easily.
    • Create Indexes, Table of Contents & Cross-References to further information.
  2. UNDERSTAND the information when they do find it.
    • Understand your audience.  Research them.  Understand how they work.
    • Create a Glossary of terms used in the document.
    • If the audience you are writing for, uses jargon, use that jargon in your documentation.
    • Writing style
      KISS – Keep It Short and Simple.
      Make it easy to read.
      Make it easy to understand
  3. Rely on the information being ACCURATE
    • Inaccurate information is worse than no information!
      Why?  Because it erodes confidence in your documentation.
    • Don’t waffle.  Give the user the exact information they need.
    • Ensure spelling, grammar, punctuation errors are fixed as much as possible before printing.
  4. Rely on the information being COMPLETE
    • Table of Content should contain all the information your audience expects, which allows them to find the information easily (point 1).
    • Your documentation is complete when your audience is happy.

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Four Key Pillars to User Documentation

In my last documentation post, I talked about the 9 essential rules for writing documentation.

To ensure that your audience accept and use your documentation, there are Four Key Pillars to writing user documentation.

The Four Key Pillars ensure the audience can:

  1. FIND the information they want, easily.
  2. UNDERSTAND the information when they do find it.
  3. Rely on the information being ACCURATE
  4. Rely on the information being COMPLETE

Miss any of these, and your target audience won’t use the documentation you spent time crafting.

My next post on Thursday, will discuss how to apply these Four Key Pillars to your documentation.

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9 Essential Rules for Writing User Documentation

  1. Identify your audience.
    Identify the average person who will be using each piece of your documentation, and write for their experience level.  Not your level of experience, but theirs.
  2. The purpose
    Write down why your average user would need to use your documentation.
    User documentation is designed to help the user to do something.
  3. Name it
    Create titles for each of your documentation pieces.
  4. Plan, create a:
    * table of Contents for each piece of documentation
    * estimate of number of the number of pages per document section
    * sample layout of your document
  5. Writing
    Create the first draft as quickly as you can.
    Do not get hung-up on spelling/grammar/”look and feel” at this stage.
  6. Editing
    Start only when you have finished writing.
  7. Proofreading
    Only when you think it is finished, ship it out for proofreading and reviewing.
  8. Printing
    Get it out the door.  There will always be one more tweak.
    Resist the urge to make it perfect, instead, get it published.
  9. Maintenance
    Set review dates for your documentation.
    If your documentation is not being used, don’t keep working on it.

My next documentation post on Tuesday, will discuss the Four Key Pillars of Writing User Documentation.

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Some shared IT items.

The Athens Affair
By Vassilis Prevelakis and Diomidis Spinellis
How some extremely smart hackers pulled off the most audacious cell-network break-in ever

Social Engineering, the USB Way
Those thumb drives can turn external threats into internal ones in two easy steps

IT secrets for keeping users happy
It’s important to remember your users. Most of the changes you make to your systems, policies, and procedures will have at least some user impact. And happy users mean happy system administrators, right?

Top 10 Ways to Fire the Client From Hell
How to tactfully rid your business of penny-penching, unreliable and abusive clients.

Scott Hanselman’s 2009 Ultimate Developer and Power Users Tool List for Windows
Everyone collects utilities, and most folks have a list of a few that they feel are indispensable. Here’s mine. Each has a distinct purpose, and I probably touch each at least a few times a week. For me, util means utilitarian and it means don’t clutter my tray. If it saves me time, and seamlessly integrates with my life, it’s the bomb. Many/most are free some aren’t. Those that aren’t free are very likely worth your 30-day trial, and perhaps your money.

The 10/20/30 Rule of PowerPoint
… I am trying to evangelize the 10/20/30 Rule of PowerPoint. It’s quite simple: a PowerPoint presentation should have ten slides, last no more than twenty minutes, and contain no font smaller than thirty points. While I’m in the venture capital business, this rule is applicable for any presentation to reach agreement: for example, raising capital, making a sale, forming a partnership, etc.

Mount an ISO image in Windows Vista
The freeware utility from Microsoft to mount ISO Images doesn’t work in Windows Vista. Thankfully there’s another utility that does.
The utility that we will use is called Virtual Clone Drive. This utility will let you mount .ISO, .CCD, .DVD, .IMG, .UDF and .BIN files. Download the utility and start the setup process.