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Soft Skills of a Technical Writer

What soft skills should technical writers have when they start their career? Linguistic and technical understanding is important in our profession. So are the soft skills - just like in any other job. more ...

RDF is not XML – RDF serialization and iiRDS metadata

The world of technical writing loves XML. Its document type definitions are the foundation of structured authoring. XML and the underlying schemas structure the content of our information products. The benefits are twofold. Content is consistently structured and easy to read. Authors have an easier time writing the content. The structure provides guidelines for authoring. more ...

How to become a technical writer – Confessions of a former translator

A former translator, I worked the first seven years of my professional life in the translation industry, in various positions. While I learned a lot from this experience, it also left me, as a writer, frustrated. Translators are chained to their source text and writing the words of others in another language, usually focusing on what their clients want. more ...

tekom impressions part 2: API documentation and the VUKA world

Daniela Herbold and Ulrike Parson write about better API documentation and solutions for innovative human resources management. more ...

Impressions from tcworld 2017

Part 1: Improvisation, fluff hunt, and videos for technical documentation. more ...

Commas save lives

Comma rules. For some, they are easy to remember. For others, they can be as difficult as assembling Ikea kitchen cabinets.

Every few months or so, we fight about the Oxford comma. The opponents: "That thing is pretentious". The supporters: "But it avoids misunderstandings".

The Oxford comma is the final comma in a list of three or more items. It is used before the conjunction that follows the final list item.The Oxford comma is not mandatory. Some style guides, for example, the AP style book for journalists, do not require the Oxford comma. The sentence below makes sense without it.

"Set the machine on a flat surface, unplug the cable and press the Reset button."

The sentence „I love my parents, Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt“ could be interpreted as stating that you are the child of the two famous movie stars. In this case, we recommend the Oxford comma.

Plus, commas save lives. The following is a cliché, but we cannot resist:

"Anna enjoys cooking, her grandfather, and her cat."

"Anna enjoys cooking her grandfather and her cat."

This one is classic too:

"Let’s eat, Grandpa."

What happens if we omit the comma?

"Let’s eat Grandpa."

Fotolia ShockedGrandpa© pathdoc - Fotolia.com

As I said, commas save lives.

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