Into the Frying Pan

Subject: Into the Frying Pan
From: Chris Morton <salt -dot- morton -at- gmail -dot- com>
To: "techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 1 Oct 2015 08:22:10 -0400

Hi All,

*BACKGROUND:* I'm but one publications specialist on a very large scale,
corporate-run program in contract with New York. Although the corporation
is known worldwide as an entity intimately involved with business
documents, it has no official style guide. Well, marketing kinda sort has
one... but then we've come across several variants on our own. And they
even formally published one in 1988 that was offered for sale; it smacks of
very early DTPitis (I was part of the DTP vanguard at the time).

Our four-person publications department has a lot resting on its shoulders,
and is (not) being managed by a person who has never run a pubs department
before. Like half of our small dept., she's been on this job less than one
full month and is learning as we go along. (Yet there is no time for that,
as the horse is already out of the barn.)

(BTW, corporate has equipped each of us with a single, tiny monitor, so
attempting to speed edit with two docs up side-by-side is a real challenge,
never mind the fact that we're all stuffed into study carrels (not even a
normal cubicle). Some are on Office 2013, others 2010, so there's no
telling why the disparity in system images and licensing.)

As with any state gig, I suppose, many things are in a quandary (I
previously saw it while on a Deloitte project withe the CA Dept. of
Workers' Comp.). Apparently several deliverables were already supposed to
have been created and approved, including an overall outreach plan that
includes many items pubs is charged with creating.

Last week the pubs manager was still taking a leisurely approach to that
doc, thinking that we only needed to have it roughed out, that the state
would help us finalize dates and whatnot. It was up to us to first
discover, then appropriate and thoroughly rewrite, a similar plan created
in California for a sister program in that state (it was written by a bunch
of youngsters who still write as if to impress their university

No SME was involved, so much of the translation of that doc was by guess
and by golly.

Surprise! As of Tuesday afternoon, the state was up in arms that the plan
had not already been finalized, submitted and approved.

From the roll of her eyes, sighing, and other body language clues, the pubs
manager knows she's in over her depth but continues with the struggle.

*PROBLEM*: The version of the 15-pp doc I had created, minus dates, was
carefully formatted in Word with section breaks, numbered headers and a TOC
(plus a lot of other pro touches). Unbeknownst to me, it was sent around to
other departments for markup. There was little agreement among the players
there, and several did not use Track Changes to mark it up.

Yesterday morning I was urgently (everything's become URGENT!) instructed
to sit in on a Webex call with two SMEs, who wanted to do yet another line
edit. I was supposed to help guide them, collect inputs, and then magically
assimilate all changes into a perfectly formatted, state-"presentation
ready" doc by 2:30. The SME conference lasted until noon, and I'm required
to "punch out" for an hour lunch (I cut my lunch break way short anyway).

But I soldiered on, being less than pleased with the resultâalthough I gave
it the yeoman's effort.

BUT... I found out later in the afternoon that, once I was done, pubs mgr
had given it to another in our department to reformat it from Arial 11 pt.
(the true corporate std.) to Arial 10 pt.(what the pubs mgr. found in a
some PPT, origin unknown). That would have thrown off all of my careful
page breaks and other typesetting finesses. I didn't see the final product
before it went back to the state for their OK.

*SOLUTION*: Other than getting the heck out of there ASAP, what process
could we have employed in the intra-departmental doc review so as to
maintain the integrity of the Word doc each step of the way?

(I've considered distributing a PDF and letting others comment on it, but
we don't so much as have access to Acrobat Pro. Corporate endorses CutePDF,
but I've never worked with it. Would the standard Acrobat Reader suffice?

What other methodologies have worked for you in such a situation?

Thanks much,

> Chris
Visit TechWhirl for the latest on content technology, content strategy and content development |


You are currently subscribed to TECHWR-L as archive -at- web -dot- techwr-l -dot- com -dot-

To unsubscribe send a blank email to
techwr-l-leave -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com

Send administrative questions to admin -at- techwr-l -dot- com -dot- Visit for more resources and info.

Looking for articles on Technical Communications? Head over to our online magazine at

Looking for the archived Techwr-l email discussions? Search our public email archives @


Previous by Author: Re: Describing field meanings and instructions
Next by Author: Re: Into the Frying Pan
Next by Thread: Re: Into the Frying Pan

What this post helpful? Share it with friends and colleagues:

Sponsored Ads