65.4, November 2018

Book Reviews

Jackie Damrau, Editor

Language and Meaning

by Betty J. Birner

Videocracy: How YouTube is Changing the World…with Double Rainbows, Singing Foxes, and Other Trends We Can’t Stop Watching

by Kevin Allocca

Business Ethics: Best Practices for Designing and Managing Ethical Organizations

by Denis Collins

The Introverted Leader: Building on Your Quiet Strength

by Jennifer B. Kahnweiler

Is English Changing?

by Steve Kleinedler

Project Management for Humans: Helping People Get Things Done

by Brett Harned

Writing Business Bids & Proposals for Dummies

by Neil Cobb and Charlie Divine

Technology in School Classrooms: How It Can Transform Teaching and Student Learning Today

by James G. Cibulka and Bruce S. Cooper, eds.

Fighting Fake News!: Teaching Critical Thinking and Media Literacy in a Digital Age

by Brian C. Housand, Ph.D.

Confident Web Design: Master the Fundamentals of Website Creation and Supercharge Your Career

by Kenny Wood

Editing in Word 2016

by Adrienne Montgomerie

The Leadership Challenge: How to Make Extraordinary Things Happen in Organizations

by James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner

The Know-It-Alls: The Rise of Silicon Valley as a Political Powerhouse and Social Wrecking Ball

by Noam Cohen

Vanishing Perspective

by Alexis Beauclair

Interaction Design: From Concept to Creation

by Jamie Steane and Joyce Yee

The Moderns: Midcentury American Graphic Design

by Steven Heller and Greg D’Onofrio

Gender in Communication: A Critical Introduction

by Catherine Helen Palczewski, Victoria Pruin DeFrancisco, and Danielle Dick McGeough

Language and Meaning

Betty J. Birner. 2018. New York, NY: Routledge. [ISBN 978-1-138-21824-6. 154 pages, including index. US$29.95 (softcover).]

While Birner’s survey Language and Meaning is for spoken language, it can easily apply to written. One example of that relationship is Noam Chomsky’s “Colorless green ideas sleep furiously” (p. 9), which demonstrates how meaning can be tied to language. “Colorless,” to take the first word, can signify for the writer one thing and something else for the user. A grammatical instant suggests that colorists will modify something. Another difficulty is that there is an instinct that suggests that the whole word group is a sentence (it “feels” like the word group should be a sentence), but where are the parts and their relationship? Yet another aspect of colorless is its context. Here, perhaps the user is looking for a part among other parts.

You were no doubt taught in technical communication classes that letters combine to form words (semantics) and words to form sentences (grammar) within contexts (pragmatics). Birner points out that you are partially right. What is particularly missing is the “intent.”

The writer has an intent when relating words, and the user likewise has an intent in mind when reading that word.

If we take “colorless,” the writer could mean the absence of color while the user understands “undistinguished. Hence, mis-communication or, at best, ambiguity.

If this relation among the factors is confusing enough, Birner goes on in three more chapters plus a conclusion to explain how language and meaning relate: philosophy and language (2); semantics and language (3); and pragmatics and language (4).

The conclusion summarizes the fundamental issues (historical) and the current issues. Birner also lists details on different approaches to both historical issues and current ones. She points to additional reading for more information relating to meaning and finally points to additional readings.

As for other approaches to language and meaning, Birner treats the philosophic, semantic, and pragmatic answers to the question, “What is meaning?” Her approach is primarily true–-conditional which means to be free of context. She also takes the compositional approach where words come together to form the sentence following grammatical rules.

Relevance for the technical communicator comes when communicating words and sentences to those who need them. Reading through Language and Meaning gives you an insight into the complexities of language and meaning and thus points to a potential problem of ambiguity. A series of paragraphs in the conclusion makes clear how vital it is for technical communicators to convey the exact meaning that the user needs.

Language and Meaning is a scholarly treatment of the question, “What is meaning?”, and as such has references and cross-references. However, unlike some scholarly books, scholarly apparatus does interfere with reading the text. For technical communicators who rely heavily on the reader understanding the text, this book will provide the necessary overview.

Tom Warren

Tom Warren is an STC Fellow, Jay R. Gould Award for Excellence recipient, and professor emeritus of English (technical writing) at Oklahoma State University, where he established the BA, MA, and PhD technical writing programs. Past president of INTECOM, he served as guest professor at the University of Paderborn, Germany.

Videocracy: How YouTube is Changing the World…with Double Rainbows, Singing Foxes, and Other Trends We Can’t Stop Watching

Kevin Allocca. 2018. New York, NY: Bloomsbury Publishing. [ISBN 978-1-63286-674-5. 336 pages, including index. US$28.00.]

In Videocracy: How YouTube is Changing the World…with Double Rainbows, Singing Foxes, and Other Trends We Can’t Stop Watching, Allocca examines key trends of Internet video. His central message points to the sociocultural impact of video that is achieved through its power to transcend communication boundaries and transform human interactions.

Allocca begins by discussing the history of YouTube and how to measure a video’s influencing power. Perhaps most significant is the true value of a “view.” He says, “how something gets viewed is often more telling than whether it was viewed” (p. 8). Additionally, it’s not necessarily the content itself that holds transformative power—it’s how people respond to and interact with it. Allocca also points to our affinity for “authentic human experiences” and the importance of “audience engagement.” He suggests that the most influential videos depict real human emotions and reactions, acknowledge viewers, and invite them to participate. They are successful because “everyone is part of the experience and the creators’ stylistic choices reflect an awareness of the audience” (p. 34). “Sharing” is perhaps the most important factor contributing to a video’s influencing power. Sharing metrics are the closest we’ll get to “measuring whether a video had created an emotional experience that made viewers feel connected to other people” (pp. 42–43).

The middle chapters depict notable video trends and examine how each has contributed to the advancement of our culture. First, there is “remixing”, which Allocca describes as a new form of creativity enabling people to create their own renditions of popular videos. The next chapters dissect video’s role in music, advertising, current events, and “how-to” videos. Allocca also explores video “niches”, or interest-driven communities that have a unique ability to empower those who are misunderstood or marginalized, followed by an intriguing analysis of “Oddly Satisfying Videos” that cater to our unconscious needs and desires.

Finally, Allocca defines what it means for a video to be “viral”, and reiterates the powerful influence that video has in our lives. Throughout Videocracy, he alludes to a shift in power towards everyday individuals, away from those fueled by money and status. Although the ability to empower everyday people has its benefits, it comes with a price—most of us don’t realize the level of impact that any video could have on our society.

Allocca’s book offers many takeaways for technical communicators—but the following can be appreciated by all: Just because our content is technical doesn’t mean it can’t be influential or transformative. We have the power to encourage new ways of interacting with the world. We can strive to provide greater context for users by paying closer attention to trends, particularly on content-generating platforms like YouTube. By participating in the conversation, we gain a deeper understanding of people’s real needs and how they are using content to better their lives.

Amy Dunbar

Amy Dunbar is an STC member and a technical writer for Pearson VUE in Bloomington, MN. She has a degree in biology and a graduate certificate in technical communication from the University of Minnesota. Amy’s professional interests include content marketing, video production, and information design.

Business Ethics: Best Practices for Designing and Managing Ethical Organizations

Denis Collins. 2019. 2nd ed. Los Angeles, CA: SAGE Publications. [ISBN 978-1-5063-8805-2. 568 pages, including index. US$110.00 (softcover).]

The second edition of Business Ethics: Best Practices for Designing and Managing Ethical Organizations is a robust how-to on the creation and implementation of creating and maintaining an ethical organization. Collins uses his 30 years of teaching business ethics to create a textbook that walks the reader through identifying moral and ethical situations, learning how those situations have developed, creating a vision for handling such situations appropriately, and implementing strategies for maintaining an ethical culture. These ideas are broken into five parts using the systematic format of the Optimal Ethics Systems Model. This format allows Collins to explain the ideas in detail with real-world examples and case studies in which an organization did (or didn’t) practice the ethical concept.

This edition is written in the same fashion as the first with the following enhancements:

  • Updated information to include new research.
  • Various content reorganization including new sections, figures, and tables.
  • Added “Optimal Ethics System Check-Up” surveys which summarize best practices.
  • Added “What Would You Do?” ethical dilemmas scenarios to many chapter introductions.
  • Added “Ethics in the News” or “Up for Debate” in which related information is highlighted for class discussion or assignment.

These enhancements provide opportunities to further class discussion and learning opportunities. For example, Part 1 introduces the chapter with a “What Would You Do?” scenario in which you (the reader) are a project manager and responsible for creating and overseeing project time and budget estimates. As the project manager, you’ve been asked to provide an inflated time and budget estimate to ensure performance goals are met. Do you inflate your research or not? These added scenarios test your understanding of ethics by putting you in the “hot” seat. It can be easy to point the finger at what was done wrong, but when you’re the one making the tough decision, you can see how easy some of these situations happen.

In addition, Business Ethics offers digital resources for instructors and students on the SAGE edge website. For students, these resources include study materials such as flashcards and quizzes, related videos and multimedia content, and learning objective summaries. For instructors, these resources include test banks for assessing students, editable PowerPoint slides, lecture notes, and classroom exercises and activities. This wealth of information makes it easy for instructors to use Business Ethics and for students to learn.

In conclusion, Collins has improved Business Ethics in a second edition with improved organization, updated research, and new sections for discussion and thought. The format and new sections make this textbook a wonderful resource for both instructors and students.

Sara Buchanan

Sara Buchanan is an STC member that serves as the NEO STC community newsletter editor and is the membership manager for the IDL SIG. She is a technical writer at LCS is Cincinnati, OH for the software, Rent Manager.

The Introverted Leader: Building on Your Quiet Strength

Jennifer B. Kahnweiler. 2018. 2nd ed. Oakland, CA: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc. [ISBN: 978-1-5230-9433-2. 188 pages, including index. US $20.95 (softcover).]

The Introverted Leader: Building on Your Quiet Strength, 2nd ed., is an excellent resource for introverts looking to build on their leadership potential, as well as extroverts who want to maximize their interactions with introverts on their teams. Kahnweiler cites recent research on introverted leadership, as well as a change in culture and attitude regarding introverts as leaders. She calls this transformation the “rise of the introverts.”

In the Introduction, Kahnweiler defines introversion and how it differs from shyness, as well as how it contrasts with extroversion. Strengths of introverts are also emphasized.

Chapter 1 outlines six key challenges for introverts: People Exhaustion, Fast Pace, Getting Interrupted, Pressure to Self-Promote, Emphasis on Teams, and Negative Impressions. Chapter 2 describes a framework called the 4 Ps process (Prepare, Presence, Push, and Practice) that can be used to address these challenges. Chapter 3 is an Introverted Leader Quiz.

The following chapters explain how to apply the 4 Ps to specific scenarios, including leading people and projects, delivering powerful presentations, leading and participating in meetings, networking, communicating and coaching for results, and managing up. At the end of each chapter is a figure illustrating the process for that goal. Peppered throughout are figures summarizing tools, techniques, and exercises that readers can use when applying the process to their own situations.

Chapter 10 highlights the positive results of using the 4 Ps process for readers and their organizations and warns of the possibility of overusing this process. The final chapter lays out a sample 4 Ps action plan, as well as space for readers to create their own.

The second edition of The Introverted Leader provides simple tools and techniques that are easy to understand and apply to one’s specific leadership challenges. It is highly recommended to all introverts who wish to build on their strengths to improve their leadership skills.

Jennifer Spanier

Jennifer Spanier has been a freelance book and database indexer since 2009 and is President Elect of the American Society for Indexing. Previously she has worked as a biologist and a public librarian and indexes in a wide variety of subject areas.

Is English Changing?

Steve Kleinedler. 2018. New York, NY: Routledge. [ISBN 978-1-138-23466-6. 194 pages, including index. US$29.95 (softcover).]

The language that we speak and write today had a starting point of before 1100 and has been labeled Old English. A transition to what linguists call Middle English that morphs into Modern English was slow and gradual.

Kleinedler’s Is English Changing? is one in a Routledge series that are brief introductions to linguistics. The author addresses questions of the changes that are occurring in English. But the book is much more because Kleinedler examines English from the origins in sounds to the people who make rules, usage, and style. He presents the subjects in readable format that makes understanding language complexities clear. Kleinedler uses copious samples to illustrate each part of language beginning with sounds.

Starting with old English, he traces English’s evolution as we know it. Following an introduction, list of figures, and acknowledgments, Chapter 1 introduces linguistics by comparing Old, Middle, and Modern English. The actual linguistic matter begins in Chapter 2 focusing on speech sounds (phonetics). Chapter 3 moves on to word structure, that joins with other word structures to form sentence structures (4). Once established, Kleinedler argues that the total structure is influenced by meaning (5) and modified by context (6). Chapter 7 introduces society and culture in the study of language, specifically regional variations that you will find when looking at the language. Kleinedler covers rules, usage, and style (8) and, finally in the conclusion (9), he summarizes the earlier chapters and points ahead with additional reading and future studies in linguistics. The book closes with references, a listing of societies and associations, and an index.

Kleinedler’s Is English Changing? shows the student the various parts of language and how they change. Students will find value in this book if they want to review the various aspects of language.

For technical communicators, Chapter 8 on Rules, Usage, and Style can be the most important. But, to understand it fully, they need to have read through the other seven chapters because of the language fundamentals Kleinedler presents. Because of the rules that technical communicators follow (sometimes unwillingly), it is helpful for technical communicators to know the answer to the question posed by the title.

Kleinedler approaches rules differently. There are the usual three groups, but they are not what you would expect: Native rules used by native users of the language and not taught; dictated rules that classify language as good/bad, right/wrong; and guidelines for communicators that include style and other language elements that make it easier for the audience to understand the communication.

After all, Kleinedler’s explanations of the language elements, the reason why English is changing is two-fold: Shifts in pronunciation as literacy rates increase (mainly during the Middle Ages) and advances in the ways people communicate (the language of smart phone texts).

So, the language elements to be studied by students and as background for technical communicators make Is English Changing? a solid value.

Tom Warren

Tom Warren is an STC Fellow, Jay R. Gould Award for Excellence recipient, and professor emeritus of English (technical writing) at Oklahoma State University, where he established the BA, MA, and PhD technical writing programs. Past president of INTECOM, he served as guest professor at the University of Paderborn, Germany.

Project Management for Humans: Helping People Get Things Done

Brett Harned. 2017. Brooklyn, NY: Rosenfeld Media. [ISBN 978-1-933820-51-4. 226 pages, including index. US$39.00 (softcover).]

For those in the technical communication field who have been thrust into the project management role, Harned provides a solid introduction to project management (PM) that may help readers understand how they landed in that role while also providing sound advice on how to be successful. How wonderful to find another technical communicator with a shared experience moving from designer to project manager. Although not stated explicitly, the qualities that Harned identifies for good PM in the first chapter are like the qualities good technical communicators possess with adaptability, flexibility, and expert communication chief among them.

Harned keeps the human part of PM front and center. This is best evidenced by advice readers will find throughout Project Management for Humans: Helping People Get Things Done about realistic expectations. For those struggling in a new PM role, he notes that it can “take a good nine months for a full-time PM to feel comfortable with the job” (p. 17). Chapter 9 is entirely devoted to setting expectations and Harned covers the stakeholder audience in terrific detail throughout the book. He also shares typical PM tasks and helps readers understand how to embrace the PM role. Too busy with PM work? At the end of each chapter, he includes a TL; DR (Too Long, Didn’t Read) summary if readers only have time to hit the highlights. Also, the book does not have to be read sequentially. If readers need to know about estimating work or managing scope, they can go directly to those chapters.

Harned notes in Chapter 2 that there is no perfect PM tool kit. He presents different methodologies that readers can apply through the lens of their own organizational cultures and experiences. Harned does not advocate a one size fits all approach carefully explaining the differences between the more traditional waterfall processes and the newer Agile processes. He emphasizes the importance of getting to know the team to be an effective project manager and reminds readers that talking to people is critical. Harned includes excellent example questions that project managers should pose to their teams. Readers will also enjoy the engaging illustrations by Deb Aoki that bring the discussion points to life. Readers will not want to miss Harned’s “swoop and poop” (p. 72) discussion about decision management.

Harned provides advice on difficult conversations in Chapter 8. While the advice is good and the steps Harned asks readers to take are valid, newer project managers may want to enlist their supervisor or another more experienced project manager to help them handle difficult conversations. Harned advocates project managers asking questions about the project but misses explicitly stating that project managers should ask for help in their role if needed. Beyond that small detail, Harned provides a reliable introduction to project management.

Liz Herman

Liz Herman, PhD, is a knowledge management practitioner and is certified in project management and technical communication. She is an STC senior member currently serves on its Education Advisory Panel. She works for Battelle in its Health and Consumer Solutions business unit.

Writing Business Bids & Proposals for Dummies

Neil Cobb and Charlie Divine. 2016. Robbinsville, NJ: Wiley & Sons. [ISBN 978-1-119-17432-5. 418 pages, including index. US$22.99 (softcover).]

Cobb and Divine, both certified as Association of Proposal Management Professionals (APMP), published Writing Business Bids and Proposals for Dummies in association with APMP. Readers may experience a subtle soft sell for APMP membership as they absorb the book’s content, but membership is not required to access several helpful templates on the APMP.org website for those proposal writers without any beginning resources. The authors also provide access to a cheat sheet on the Dummies.com website that includes the book’s key takeaways. The Dummies.com website does not allow its audience to print the cheat sheet in a way that is easily reviewed. This is unfortunate given the time that Cobb and Divine spend discussing making proposals look good.

Cobb and Devine comprehensively cover critical elements to proposal writing. It is a kitchen sink approach to proposal management, but effective in the sense that there is takeaway content for both new and experienced proposal writers. Like many reference and resource books, the reader does not have to move through the book sequentially. Readers may want to start with Chapter 17, which details ten common misconceptions about bids and proposals. Readers can first disabuse themselves of these misconceptions and start fresh with Chapter 1.

The book’s strengths include useful tips about repurposing documentation, effectively responding to customer questions, and an explanation about the necessary relationship that must exist between business developers and proposal writers if the size of the company warrants these two separate roles. The icons used to highlight a tip, a warning, or an example throughout the book are valuable. Readers who are skimming content can quickly look for these icons for important takeaways. Cobb and Divine also discuss the value of a proposal writer and how proposal writers can show their value to their companies.

Although Cobb and Divine do discuss ways to handle the stress of proposal writing, they minimize the pressure and tension that many proposal writers encounter in a deadline-driven, must-win environment. A franker, potentially lengthier discussion is needed. Experienced proposal writers may disagree with some of the writing examples that seem rather informal or casually written and put the company first before the customer despite the authors expressing the opposite. They also miss instructing proposal writers to explicitly follow guidelines found in the Request for Proposal (RFP) for font size and margins. Failing to follow the specifications could result in a disqualification. Cobb and Divine emphasize the importance of submitting a compliant proposal. It is missing, however, in the discussion of ensuring the proposal looks good. There are often rules about graphics as well.

Readers will find Cobb and Divine’s Writing Business Bids and Proposals for Dummies full of information that may not be easily compiled elsewhere. Because proposal writing and the submission of a winning proposal is critical to ensuring businesses thrive and survive, new proposal writers may want to have an experienced guide at their side and not rely on this book alone.

Liz Herman

Liz Herman, PhD, is a knowledge management practitioner and is certified in project management and technical communication. She is an STC senior member currently serves on its Education Advisory Panel. She works for Battelle in its Health and Consumer Solutions business unit.

Technology in School Classrooms: How It Can Transform Teaching and Student Learning Today

James G. Cibulka and Bruce S. Cooper, eds. 2017. Rowman & Littlefield. 172 pages. 978-1-4758-3104-7. USD$30.00 (softcover).

Cibulka and Cooper are educators and editors for this collection of works about the use of technology in school classrooms and the general topic of next generation learning in schools. The topics covered in Technology in School Classrooms include use of online learning in K–12, the role of technology in student learning, how to approach the professional development of teachers in the digital age, use of technology in science classrooms, and the role of schools in educating and preparing a technologically literate teaching workforce.

In the piece on the state of K–12 online learning, I found some especially interesting observations. The history of using distance education in K–12 is long (p. 45). However, over the last three decades, we see no “convincing evidence” that online learning is “effective in producing positive student outcomes.” The authors do state that online and blended learning in this environment can be successful “but the way online and blended learning is currently implemented often does not work for all—or even most—students.” The authors go on to state that we should learn from programs that have not lived up to their high expectations.

Cibulka puts together a thought-provoking conclusion to Technology in School Classrooms with a section on reconciling the views of “technology skeptics and enthusiasts.” He states (p. 160) that there is “support for both views in these chapters.” Cibulka agrees with the idea that digital technology “has the potential to transform teaching and student learning.” He states that he agrees with the technology enthusiasts that the entire educational systems must be transformed. Skeptics note that so far digital technology has not been a big driver of change in American education. So, there we get a glimpse of the arguments for and against the use of digital technologies in the school classroom.

Only time will tell if technology transforms education. Transforming the system might not be possible or easy as we need teacher training, leadership, and a vision to achieve the transformation. The skeptics will point out the challenges with the transformation. So, let’s see what happens.

You might enjoy Technology in School Classrooms if you want to keep up with the topics and thinking in the field of next generation learning. If you are teaching, you might like your students to get exposed to the ideas here.

Jeanette Evans

Jeanette Evans holds an MS in technical communication management from Mercer University. She works with industry and academia groups doing technical writing and courseware development. Jeanette co-authors Intercom column on emerging technologies in education column. She recently won an APEX Award for Publication Excellence as NEO STC newsletter co-editor.

Fighting Fake News!: Teaching Critical Thinking and Media Literacy in a Digital Age

Brian C. Housand, Ph.D. 2018. Waco, TX: Prufrock Press Inc. [ISBN 978-1-61821-728-8. 146 pages, including index. US$29.95 (softcover).]

“Fake news” is one of the biggest news headlines in recent years. The threat of fake news is everywhere, and politicians have latched onto this buzzword. However, what exactly is fake news, and how do you determine the viability of your news source? With more people accessing news from a variety of Internet sources, how can you tell what stories are legitimate, and which are yellow journalism or political propaganda? In Fighting Fake News!, Dr. Housand designs a program structured to teach students, and maybe even adults, how to determine which news stories are credible, and which are less than reliable.

America has a long history of fake news, from the yellow journalism that provoked the Spanish-American war, to the misreporting that “The War of the Worlds” radio drama sparked mass hysteria. (It didn’t, but the newspapers said that there was hysteria to promote newspapers instead of the newcomer radio.) Why do people believe such stories? Often because they are predisposed and want to believe them. To combat such tendencies, Dr. Housand presents an attack plan. Fake news fighters must overcome the following challenges: information overload, certifying authenticity of sources, evaluating speed against accuracy, and overcoming your personal biases. This book is designed as a teaching aid, and educators can use activities placed within each chapter to engage students and help hone their critical thinking skills. Each chapter clearly lays out a plan of instruction to convey one of the main concepts, and to build up towards overcoming one of the stated challenges. For example, chapter 8 focuses on overcoming your biases. It describes how many people surround themselves on social media with people who share their political viewpoints. The result is, everyone in that circle agrees with everyone’s opinions, which falsely validates those opinions. Without alternate opinions, people develop a bias towards their group and are quick to dismiss other groups. To be better informed, Dr Housand suggests that alternative views be taken from qualified sources. The exercise for this chapter describes how to start a rudimentary debate by choosing a topic and then finding reliable sources that are pro/con/neutral before deciding.

Will Fighting Fake News! stop the spread of misinformation? Definitely not. But it does provide a logical framework to convey to students to help them develop critical thinking skills. Will it enable you to change your Facebook friend’s opposing political viewpoints? Probably not, but it can lead you into civil discourse on such topics. If you are interested in learning how media manipulates people and how to overcome said manipulation, then Fighting Fake News! is the book for you.

Timothy Esposito

Timothy Esposito is an STC Associate Fellow with over 15 years of technical communication experience. He is the past president of the STC Philadelphia Metro Chapter and chair of the Community Achievement Award Committee. Before becoming president, Timothy was chapter vice president, treasurer, webmaster, and scholarship manager.

Confident Web Design: Master the Fundamentals of Website Creation and Supercharge Your Career

Kenny Wood. 2018. London, United Kingdom: Kogan Page. [ISBN 978-0-7494-8100-1. 257 pages, including index. US$19.95 (softcover).]

Wood really takes the time to go into detail in this beginner’s guide to creating websites and being confident in doing so. Every chapter is based on the various languages of Web design. He also goes over the key principles in which the World Wide Web functions. This book is great whether you have little to no knowledge on Web design.

Confident Web Design includes examples for each programming language mentioned. The last chapter is about putting everything into practice. As someone who has little practice with Web design, I could have used this book when I was creating a website. With creating my website, I had no idea what I was doing, and I just played around with various techniques until it worked. Reading this book has helped me interpret what making a website consists of and how to have a better designed one.

Websites require a lot of attention to detail and if something goes wrong it can make or break your website design. This book is great for beginners because it covers how to make your website and eliminates the room for error in coding.

Heather Morgan

Heather Morgan is a corporate sales coordinator in Dallas, TX. She graduated from York College of Pennsylvania with a Hospitality Management degree. In her spare time, Heather enjoys traveling, petting every dog she can, and enjoying a good book.

Editing in Word 2016

Adrienne Montgomerie. 2017. 2nd ed. Kingston, Canada: Right Angels and Polo Bears. [ISBN 978-17750457-0-0. 121 pages. US$35.00 (eBook).]

In Montgomerie’s own words, “This is no ordinary reference book. Neither is it simply a workbook or even an enhanced e-book; this is a self-study course. The video demos and exercises are an integral part of this book. The videos show how the tools work, and how to navigate the Word environment. The exercises help you check your learning” (p. 2). Being an accomplished Word user, I frequently skipped the videos and found the text explanations and instructions perfectly informative and usable.

Instructions are handily prefaced with an Apple or the Windows icon. Readers may want to plan on reading only the instructions that apply to their platform to prevent boredom or confusion.

Montgomerie sprinkles Pro Tips throughout the text and offers relevant best practices, such as “Always give a document a onceover in Final or No Markup view before sending it to the client. This will reveal a bunch of formatting errors that arise from working with markup displayed. Double spaces between words, spaces around punctuation, or no spaces between words are common errors often obscured by the redlining on the screen” (p. 13).

When explaining codes for finding or replacing special characters, Montgomerie does a good job. However, she could have improved the content (see Figure 30 on p. 47) by noting that the code letters (the ‘p’ in ^p, for instance) must be lower case and that ‘l’ in ^l is a lower-case L, not a numeral 1 or a capital I.

The information on Sections is very light and doesn’t address the various types available, and when they are best used. They can be essential for working with complex documents and having the print come out the way you want it.

I found it annoying that Montgomerie includes references to the CopyEditing.com site where publications are available only to paid subscribers. It is likely that her target audience may already belong and will benefit from these references.

In the Macros section, I found it interesting that Montgomerie was speaking about playing and recording macros and referenced the “tape deck” buttons. She does include a reference and link to macro-guru Paul Beverly’s YouTube channel (which includes the macros’ code).

Editing in Word 2016 is more than just a reference book; it is a self-study course for editors using Apple or Windows. Read the book, view the 24 demo videos, do the 24 exercises (and view the support website): be more efficient and effective by having Word do the “heavy lifting” for a change.

Mellissa K. Ruryk

Mellissa K. Ruryk is an STC Senior Member with more than 30 years experience as an independent technical communicator in Vancouver, Canada. She holds a Bachelor’s in English/Art. Mellissa specializes in the areas of writing policy and procedures, user and training guides; facilitating online Word courses, writing effective résumés, and editing.

The Leadership Challenge: How to Make Extraordinary Things Happen in Organizations

James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner. 2017. 6th ed. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley & Sons. [ISBN 978-1-119-27896-2. 416 pages, including index. US$35.00.]

The very first example provided in Kouzes and Posner’s The Leadership Challenge: How to Make Extraordinary Things Happen in Organizations is about a credit card company. This may lead readers to put this book in with others on the topic of leadership and management as many follow the formula of using credit card companies as prime examples. Keep reading. The authors move quickly into other examples. More importantly, the content is rich with easy-to-apply concepts and engaging graphics that foster synthesis of the material.

The Five Practices and Ten Commitments of Exemplary Leadership are illustrated toward the beginning of the book and serve as a guiding framework for the discussion that follows. From modeling the way to challenging the process to encouraging the heart, Kouzes and Posner push and pull the reader through not only the how-to, but the why behind different leadership principles. Their guidance is built upon over 100,000 people responding to a Characteristics of Admired Leaders (CAL) checklist. Perhaps not surprisingly, the top traits are honesty, competency, inspirational, and forward-thinking. Beyond possessing these top traits, the authors share how to self-assess as a leader. For example, leaders are reminded to ask purposeful questions daily around the key principles of teamwork, respect, learning, continuous improvement, and customer focus. Kouzes and Posner provide the questions making immediate the applicability of this lesson and one that can be accomplished by leaders with varying levels of experience. In addition, each chapter ends with a Take Action summary that highlights the chapter’s key takeaways and lists the five or six steps readers must take to master that concept whether it be fostering collaboration or recognizing contributions.

Many times throughout the book, the authors provide simple, yet effective, examples of ways to lead with stories pulled directly from the many case studies and interviews they have completed over this book’s history, now currently in its 6th edition. For example, the authors share a story about how simply saying please and thank you completely changed a law firm’s atmosphere for first-year associates. Rather than leaving within the first few months of employment because they didn’t feel valued, these associates now desire to continue working for a firm that recognizes and validates their work. They are thanked for their efforts.

The Leadership Challenge is an informative book for those looking to grow into leadership positions, currently leading, and for those readers wanting to better understand leaders and leadership within their own organizations. Readers do not have to label themselves as leaders to reap the benefits of Kouzes and Posner’s leadership primer. Leaders do not have to be leading mega-sized companies. This book fits all.

Liz Herman

Liz Herman, PhD, is a knowledge management practitioner and is certified in project management and technical communication. She is an STC senior member currently serves on its Education Advisory Panel. She works for Battelle in its Health business unit.

The Know-It-Alls: The Rise of Silicon Valley as a Political Powerhouse and Social Wrecking Ball

Noam Cohen. 2017. New York, NY: The New Press. [ISBN 978-1-62097-210-6. 260 pages, including index. US$25.95.]

For several decades Silicon Valley has preached a gospel of disruption. If we just let technology visionaries have a free hand to move fast and break things, they will use their brilliance and benevolence to make the world a better place. So far, dazzled by the wonders of the digital age, we have largely let them have their way.

However, in the face of job losses, decimated industries, and an election influenced, and possibly decided, by fake news spread through social media, it is time to take a closer critical look at those who claim to benefit mankind while making themselves rich.

In The-Know-It-Alls: The Rise of Silicon Valley as a Political Powerhouse and Social Wrecking Ball, former New York Times technology columnist Noam Cohen traces how our present situation came about and provides a brilliant critique of the effects the Valley’s radical libertarian mantra is having on our lives.

In a tale of academic ambition, hacker arrogance, and entrepreneurial greed, Cohen convincingly argues that the fact that the Web morphed from its original non-commercial and collaborative beginnings into an individualistic, centralized, commercial entity was not inevitable. Rather, it was largely due to specific decisions made by a relative handful of well-placed individuals at key points in its development.

Taken together, those individuals are a colorful lot: researchers, hackers, and entrepreneurs united by little but an interest in computers and an uber-confidence in their own brilliance. In a series of intellectual profiles, we get a fresh take not only on the usual suspects—Gates, Zuckerberg, Bezos, and the PayPal Mafia of venture capitalists—but also on earlier foundational figures. John McCarthy who ran the first Artificial Intelligence Labs, for example, did much to foster the hacker culture of anarchic resistance to authority and regulation of any kind, while IQ pioneer Lewis Terman and his son Frederick at Stanford University paved the way for Silicon Valley by pushing the university to become a launching pad for business start-ups.

Along the way, Cohen offers a scathing critique of the harsh, individualistic, market-centric, values pushed by Silicon Valley and the implications those values have for the rest of society and on our democratic ideals. We are asked to consider whether we really want a society where everyone is forced to become a “start-up of you,” where government regulations wither away, bold entrepreneurs amass billions of dollars from their innovations, and the rest of us struggle in a hypercompetitive market without unions, government regulations, or social welfare programs to protect us.

Well researched, fare, and brilliantly told, The Know-It-Alls offers a refreshing alternative to the hagiographic reporting that has characterized much of the coverage of the valley’s know-it-alls. For those who wish to understand where we are, and who got us here, it is a must read.

Patrick Lufkin

Patrick Lufkin is an STC Fellow with experience in computer documentation, newsletter production, and public relations. He reads widely in science, history, and current affairs, as well as on writing and editing. He chairs the Gordon Scholarship for technical communication and co-chairs the Northern California technical communication competition.

Vanishing Perspective

Alexis Beauclair. 2018. Chicago, IL: 2dcloud. [ISBN 978-1-937541-30-9. 125 pages. US$20.95 (softcover).]

Vanishing Perspective collects four previously self-published comics produced by the comic artist Alexis Beauclair. Different readers will interpret this book in different ways. Originally produced between the years 2013 and 2016, the comics present trimmed down narratives using simple line, flat planes, and composition. These narratives are stripped of all but the most basic context, and cover topics like prisms, motion, mazes, perspective, and even a tribute to Sol Le Witt. The four comics are presented to show a chronological progression in Beauclair’s work. They are published along with an interview with Beauclair and a brief exploration of his work.

Springing from the world of alternative comics, Beauclair takes an experimental, minimalist approach to the medium. His self-professed primary goal is to distill the artform down to the basics of movement. He minimizes imagery and narrative to the point of near abstraction. With one or two exceptions, all figures are reduced to no more than a few lines. Narratives, where they are decipherable or intended, are stripped down to simple paths from point A to point B. It can be difficult to cull much meaning from the work without context. Fortunately, the interview and brief text on Beauclair’s work provides some useful insight. Essentially, the comics operate as experiments in distillation, for example, more fine art than traditional graphic narrative. This creates a unique niche for lovers and researchers of the medium, but it is such a narrow focus that readers may struggle to find the proper point of entry into the work. Basic comic structures, such as reading left to right and top to bottom, combine with titles that serve as the guidelines which allow one to engage with the work.

It is difficult to describe the comics in words without presenting a sample, but this reviewer was struck by the work’s resemblance to early digital imagery. In similarity to DOS simulators or fractal arcade machines from the 1980s, the work presents stripped corridors and seemingly endless mazes devoid of texture and detail. It is several levels more minimal than the commonly recognized comic forms of superheroes like Batman, and closer to the work of Schulz on Peanuts or Hergé on Tintin, which Beauclair cites as an influence (p. 117), but still extends further. There’s no protagonist, no antagonist, no narrative outside of mechanical journeys along a track. Beauclair wants the reader to interact with the work at their own level, with no hand holding. The experience is all part of an experiment.

Once one accepts the fact that they are not in the standard comic setup, one can start enjoying the pathways that Beauclair is presenting. It is certainly a unique take on the medium and explores frontiers that have been little traveled in the past.

Sam Washburn

Sam Washburn has been an image maker since 2009 and received his MFA from the University of Central Oklahoma College of Fine Arts and Design in 2018. His work has been recognized by American Illustration, 3×3 and others. He also teaches illustration and design in Oklahoma.

Interaction Design: From Concept to Creation

Jamie Steane and Joyce Yee. 2018. London, UK: Bloomsbury Visual Arts. [ ISBN: 978-1-4742-3239-5. pages, including index. US$39.38 (softcover).]

Throughout my career, I’ve primarily focused on technical writing, training, and instructional design. I looked forward to reading Interaction Design: From Concept to Creation to see how other designers went from A-to-Z in their project design.

The book is set up in six chapters, each showcasing real-life projects focused heavily on application creation, which doesn’t necessarily apply to me…yet! But the mobility piece of the production continues to gain traction in eLearning/training and is becoming more and more popular as apps take over normal daily routines. Many production steps may not match exactly what I do in creation for my projects, but the unique teams’ processes when coming up with the final function and design was eye-opening.

Design aspects, like matching the cartoon’s design to the gaming app, was a no-brainer. But in the case of an app being developed for travelers, the idea of creating profiles for each of the main users they anticipated was intriguing. My current audience is a very specific genre (normally), but to watch an app get developed for much broader audiences really gave me ideas on how to better approach the audience I appeal to daily.

Another insight I appreciated peeked into multiple client relationships. When I opened my own company years ago, I often wondered if the limitations and challenges I experienced were normal. As a lone writer and developer, the feeling of living on an island comes in waves, pun intended! But here I see the issues as they get worked out and the talented ways each of the teams overcame the complexities they faced. It was empowering to read through the beginning ideas to the final product, with all the bumps and successes in between.

The Experiences chapter was by far my favorite, where the team gets to troubleshoot real people visiting an aquarium and figuring out how to make their experiences not only better, but more engaging, up to date, and easier to navigate. Multiple solutions were needed to meet the client’s requests, and in the end not all of them could be created in the desired timeline, but the final products were, in my opinion, plain awesome!

As you reach the rebranding chapter, I can’t help but be reminded of the rebranding I’ve seen from so many companies over the years. Not just the logos or color schemes are being changed anymore! Keeping a fresh platform is part of survival because of how quickly technology changes, and the importance of real-time responses and online consumer reviews.

I enjoyed the consistency of the book’s design, because in each of the projects you learn almost the same components from each example. You walk through the development in front, looking at the challenges, the outcome, the insight, and even the project facts. Then, you look deeper into the development for the context and user research. They even line out the project stages, down to the details of which tools were used.

Each chapter ends with an interview with the team, and then finally a workshop that guides you through an exercise to practice what you’ve learned so far. The detail that goes into each of the steps makes you feel like you’re working alongside a team, even if you’re not.

It’s clear to see that the agile and waterfall methods are still very much being used today in development. But as the authors stated, a lot of these teams implemented a hybrid of both agile and waterfall, which they coined a “wagile” method. And no worries, all those years learning scrum were not in vain. The method can be different for every race!

Kristin Kirkham-Broadhead

Kristin Kirkham-Broadhead is an instructional designer, technical writer, and training & development manager from Dallas, TX. She previously served the STC North Texas Lone Star Community as President from 2009–2010. When she is not writing, she loves scrapbooking, photography, and chasing her son around the house.

The Moderns: Midcentury American Graphic Design

Steven Heller and Greg D’Onofrio. 2017. New York, NY: Harry N. Abrams. [ISBN 978-1-4197-2401-5. 336 pages, including index. US$55.00.]

The Moderns: Midcentury American Graphic Design by Steven Heller and Greg D’Onofrio is an excellent attempt to broach history of graphic design beyond the existing canon. The content for the text is broken up into four sections: Introduction, Émigrés, Homegrown, and it concludes with an essay from 1938 titled “The Bauhaus Tradition and New Typography” by L. Sandusky, which provides an early view of these movements from an American perspective. In the introduction, the authors include a description of the modernist movement in America and discuss the selection as well as the breakdown of the designers included in the text, who they chose to include, who was left out, and the reasons why. They also address the need to expand the canon of design history.

Of the 63 (really 66, three are presented as duos) featured designers, each is presented with a one-page biography and two- or three-page spreads of examples of their work. Where The Moderns really excels is on the focus of the content; the information for the biographies and images used are very specific to the modern movement in America. While the book acknowledges that the designers who immigrated to America have a past in design before their arrival, and that some of the American designers may also have had European influence, the emphasis is on their influence and within the American Borders. This means that for designers such as Josef Albers and Herbert Bayer, who are widely recognized within the canon for their contributions to European Avant Garde, are here being recognized largely for their contributions to American design.

Evidence also exists of an attempt to include women and minorities in this history. The largely missing history of women and minorities in a Eurocentric history of graphic design is something that has been noted by scholars of design history. The inclusion of female designers such as Lillian Bassman and Jacqueline Casey, as well as African American designers Donald Crews and Georg Olden, adds to the scope of this work. The Moderns does not solve this issue, but it stands as a model of inclusion for future histories.

So, while there is still a long way to go in the interest of expanding the canon of graphic design history, The Moderns is taking a big leap forward in the right direction. Besides the collection of images that wonderfully illustrate the modern movement in America the text also contains a wealth of great quotes from great designers. While most designers will be familiar with the words of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, “Less is more”, are no less wise than the words of Louis Danziger “If you want to look as good as Rand, don’t look at Rand; look at what Rand looks at.” For those who have read the epic tome, Meggs’ History of Graphic Design, this is an opportunity to dig into some of history’s great designers who are mentioned only in passing, as well as to examine designers whose names are not mentioned at all. The Moderns is an excellent supplement to any survey text of the history of graphic design.

Amanda Horton

Amanda Horton holds an MFA in Design and currently teaches graduate and undergraduate courses at the University of Central Oklahoma in the areas of design technology, design studio. and history of graphic design. Ms. Horton is also the director of the Design History Minor at UCO.

Gender in Communication: A Critical Introduction

Catherine Helen Palczewski, Victoria Pruin DeFrancisco, and Danielle Dick McGeough. 2019. 3rd ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications. [ISBN 978-1-5063-5845-1. 324 pages, including index. $105.00 (softcover).]

Gender in Communication: A Critical Introduction is an eye-opener: It makes us aware of so many elements of language we have seldom if ever considered. And this, for people who have spent their careers working with the English language. Those elements, as the book’s title indicates, revolve around the topics of sex and gender in all communication forms: spoken, written, and all media types.

The book views things from a decidedly feminist perspective: identifying those features of language––words and visuals––that contain an arbitrary gender bias. This includes words that have become so much a part of the language, we don’t even “think” of them as “gendered,” as the text says. For example, a word like “forefathers.” Who would even “consider” such a word sexist? Yet once you dig deeper, the implications become clearer. The alternative, though, “does” sound a bit odd: “foremothers.”

In technical writing and the journalistic formats of writing, it’s important to be aware of words and phrases that might be considered sexist.

These things can be “very” subtle and elusive. They pop up in humor, swearing, politeness forms (connotations of Mr. versus Ms.; Master and Mistress), as well as what the authors call feminine versus masculine conversation style (women’s being more “relationship- oriented;” men’s more “task-oriented” (p. 65).

One scholar calls the change that is occurring “the patriarchal universe of discourse” (p. 107). Still, with women’s emancipation and the growing strength of the women’s movement, the language is changing. Major periodicals like the Washington Post and the Chicago Manual of Style have accepted the use of “they” for he/she or he or she. One study found that most people use “they” while referring to a person when the gender is unknown (p. 101).

One humble suggestion: Gender in Communication deals with sensitive emotional issues that affect people deeply and intimately. Unfortunately, it is laden with what I’ve called elsewhere “social science style:” a style of writing, very common in sociology, psychology, and anthropology, that presents often delicate material in a cold impersonal way. The result is: it can wring the life out of real-world flesh-and-blood events; make a concept harder to understand; and be a real turn-off for others.

No space here for lots examples. But these two should suffice:

“For women to name and describe their experiences in “their own terms” is a crucial scientific and “epistemological act.” Members of marginalized groups must struggle to name their own experiences for themselves in order to claim the subjectivity, the possibility of historical agency, that is given to members of dominant groups at birth” (p. 116).

Resignification refers to the linguistic practice in which you reject a term’s existing meaning’s normative power…Instead of unreflexively using language, you would “seek to recite language oppositionally, so that hegemonic terms take on alternative, counter-hegemonic meanings” (p. 117).

Steven Darian

Steven Darian is an STC Fellow and retired from a career at Rutgers University, where he taught business and technical writing as well as other language-related courses. He is finishing the 2nd edition of his book, “Technique in Nonfiction: The Tools of the Trade”, due out the end of 2018.