67.3 August 2020

Book Reviews

By Jackie Damrau, Editor

Books Reviewed in This Issue


Bagels, Bumf, and Busses: A Day in the Life of the English language

by Simon Horobin

You’re Not Listening: What You’re Missing and Why It Matters

by Kate Murphy

Storyville!: An Illustrated Guide to Writing Fiction

by John Dufresne

Writing Is Designing: Words and the User Experience

by Michael J. Metts and Andy Welfle

The Fundamentals of Graphic Design, 2nd ed.

by Gavin Ambrose, Paul Harris, and Nigel Ball

Writing and Designing Manuals and Warnings, 5th ed.

by Patricia A. Robinson

Storytelling in Design: Defining, Designing, and Selling Multidevice Products

by Anna Dahlström

Teams Unleashed: How to Release the Power and Human Potential of Work Teams

by Phillip Sandahl and Alexis Phillips

Mag Men: Fifty Years of Making Magazines

by Walter Bernard and Milton Glaser

The Oxford Handbook of English Grammar

by Bas Aarts, Jill Bowie, and Gergana Popova, eds.

Designing Interfaces: Patterns for Effective Interface Design, 3rd ed.

by Jenifer Tidwell, Charles Brewer, and Aynne Valencia

Leading in a Culture of Change, 2nd ed.

by Michael Fullan

Voice and Tone Strategy: Connecting with People through Content

by John Caldwell

Cracking the Digital Ceiling: Women in Computing Around the World

by Carol Frieze and Jeria L. Quensenberry, eds.

Rhetorical Machines: Writing, Code, and Computational Ethics

by John Jones and Lavinia Hirsu, eds

Women Can’t Paint: Gender, the Glass Ceiling and Values in Contemporary Art

by Helen Gørrill

Pencils You Should Know: A History of the Ultimate Writing Utensil in 75 Anecdotes

by Caroline Weaver

Dreaming the Graphic Novel: The Novelization of Comics

by Paul Williams

Technology and Society: A World History

by Andrew Ede

Eternal Impact: Inspire Greatness in Yourself and Others

by Troy Nix

Writing an Interactive Story

by Pierre Lacombe, Gabriel Féraud, and Clément Rivière

Suffrage and the Arts: Visual Culture, Politics and Enterprise

by Miranda Garrett and Zoë Thomas, eds.

Bagels, Bumf, and Busses: A Day in the Life of the English Language

Simon Horobin. 2019. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. [ISBN 978-0-1988-3227-0. 242 pages, including index. US$21.95.]

If you’ve ever done historical or linguistic research, you’ve come across the Oxford English Dictionary (OED). This ponderous tome is filled with histories of English words, so you can learn how a common word used today arose from old French and first made its appearance in English in the 1680s. Now, if you’ve ever wished, “If only the OED were organized categorically instead of alphabetically,” then your wish has been granted in the form of Bagels, Bumf, and Busses: A Day in the Life of the English Language.

In Bagels, Bumf, and Busses, Simon Horobin recreates a typical day’s journey, from awakening, to work, including eating and drinking and sports, and then retiring for the evening. Each section describes what you might come across or do during that themed time, and then explains the word’s origin. Frequently, that entails not only explaining the word’s history, but then explaining the history of the words used in the explanation, along with related words. Consequently, it takes a good deal of reading to learn all the terms for getting dressed for work, eating breakfast, and departing on your commute (which first entered U.S. English in the 1960s and is a shortening of commutation ticket, from Latin com “altogether” and mutare “to change,” and was a season travel ticket in which the daily charge was commuted into a single payment). In this style, each aspect of your everyday life is explained.

While each piece of word trivia (from trivium, meaning three ways—grammar, rhetoric, and logic) may be interesting, attempting to digest the book by reading it cover to cover may prove tedious. A combination of the content and extremely small typeface is a reading challenge. Fortunately, an index is included so you can easily research your desired word and learn its history, such as the titular bumf (the daily paperwork you go through each morning which at one time would have become bum fodder, or toilet paper). Using a real life example, if, when you see a colleague wearing a hat known as a trilby, you gain joy in the knowledge that it was named for the title character in a novel by George du Maurier, then Bagels, Bumf, and Busses is for you. Amateur etymologists will rejoice and enjoy this book; entomologists not as much.

Timothy Esposito

Timothy Esposito is an STC Fellow with over 20 years of technical communication experience. He is the past president of the STC Philadelphia Metro Chapter. Before becoming president, Timothy was chapter vice president, treasurer, webmaster, and scholarship manager.

You’re Not Listening: What You’re Missing and Why It Matters

Kate Murphy. 2020. Celadon Books. [ISBN 978-1-250-29719-8. 280 pages, including index. US$26.00 (hardcover).]

In You’re Not Listening: What You’re Missing and Why It Matters, Kate Murphy shares interesting interviews she had with a CIA interrogator, a Nobel Prize winner, a bishop, a focus group moderator, and an improv instructor (among others) during her research. Each offers insight into various aspects of how we do or don’t listen when someone is talking. While Murphy can highlight what you are missing when you’re not listening, she is less concrete about why it matters. Still, the book is worth the read and provides food for thought if you want to practice being a better listener.

Throughout 17 chapters, Murphy hits on a variety of situations that affect our ability (or willingness) to listen. Chapter 4’s subtitle is “Assumptions as Earplugs,” and her interviewee said that people in long-term relationships feel unheard and misunderstood because people lose their curiosity for each other; they are convinced they know each other better than they actually do. This is the kind of eureka moment that makes this book an interesting read.

The book’s chapters are independent of each other with little crossover from one to the next; however, you can make connections in your own mind as you ruminate on the content.

In Chapter 8, Murphy identifies qualitative research consultants as those who were hired to listen on behalf of businesses, government agencies, and political candidates. Today, the trend is to use online analytics and social media monitoring. In Chapter 13, we learn that extensive research has been done about making sense of auditory information, yet there is little understanding of how we listen and connect during conversations. It’s no wonder that the digital world of bits, bytes, and character limits affects our ability to focus and listen in face-to-face interactions with actual humans.

Murphy references studies on the synching of brain waves, and how people understand and internalize what another is saying. These are ways that we find friends (and partners), and advance ideas. When these connections are missing, we can feel isolated and empty, so we tend to reach for our phones and “connect” via social media, lose ourselves in music or podcasts, or binge-watching television shows. Still, no matter how much virtual interacting we do, “listening, more than any other activity, plugs [us] into life” (p. 23).

This quote comes from the Introduction, but it is a good question to ponder when finished reading, “When was the last time you listened to someone? Really listened, without thinking about what you wanted to say next, glancing down at your phone, or jumping in to offer your opinion?” (p. 1).

Michelle Gardner

Michelle Gardner, CPTC, is an STC member and a technical writer for Aumentum Technologies. She has a bachelor’s in Journalism: Public Relations from California State University, Long Beach, and a master’s in Computer Resources and Information Management from Webster University.

Storyville!: An Illustrated Guide to Writing Fiction

John Dufresne. 2020. W.W. Norton & Company. [ISBN 978-0-393-43918-2. 276 pages. US$21.95 (softcover, advanced galley-proof).]

You may ask whether a technical communicator can benefit from a book on how to write fiction. The book’s title Storyville!: An Illustrated Guide to Writing Fiction is what drew me in. Everywhere today people are encouraged to write their stories, speak their stories, sell their stories. If you haven’t yet been tasked with a similar request to tell your company’s story on a blog or in a newsletter, you’ll likely be asked to soon.

What should you write? You might think of copy for an About page on the corporate website. You would include the CEO’s bio and high-quality photos of the production facility for your company or a store front location. However, none of that is fiction. Technical communicators think and write about facts. So, what could the subtitle, “Writing for Fiction” offer, if anything, to a technical community?

Have you ever considered what it might have been like when your CEO created the original concept, looked for funding, and hired a few employees? How long was it before the idea took off and drew the notice of a dedicated audience? And just who belongs to that audience? Do members of your community pipe up online if the company opens or closes a location, or discontinues a product that’s been in the lineup for over a decade? Is there a story somewhere in there that others would appreciate knowing? Is there a tale engaging enough to create a fresh marketing strategy around, or even material for a book?

Technical communicators should be impressed by the Storyville!’s layout of topics, including how-to steps both in words and illustrations. Thanks to John Dufresne and Evan Wondolowski, the illustrator, graphics and text are richly married in this book. Clever illustrations spark interest in the characters who populate the author’s sample stories. Your story’s characters should do the same. There are other actors of equal importance to the tale: a chemist who discovered surprising uses for a compound and an investor who backed the operation with 100% belief in the company philosophy.

There is no story without a plot line. Should the company story start when the CEO was born? Is there any reason a reader would care about that? Your story requires a specific beginning that launches the plot. You could borrow a plot from Shakespeare or, less likely, Stephen King. Don’t forget an inspirational end that brings all full circle. Though you’ve heard the company story for so long that you might be bored with it, your audience will not be. Reading Storyville! An Illustrated Guide to Writing Fiction, with all the author’s positive energy, will fix that attitude quickly.

Another aspect that will attract any writer, especially a technical communicator, is Dufresne’s creativity which shines across every one of the 276 pages. I’ve often wondered what about the source of great enthusiasm and clever ideas, when my gift is the ability to research well, organize, and instruct. Maybe it is time for me to consider adding a second title to my writer skills cap: Story Writer.

Donna Ford

Donna Ford has been an STC member and a technical writer in the hardware, software, and government healthcare industries. She holds an Information Design certificate from Bentley College. Donna is an author who also reviews books online for the US Review of Books.

Writing Is Designing: Words and the User Experience

Michael J. Metts and Andy Welfle. 2020. Rosenfeld Media LLC. [ISBN 978-1-933820-66-8. 186 pages, including index. US$39.99 (softcover).]

From the moment I saw the cover of Writing Is Designing: Words and the User Experience, I was enamored. The cover is modeled after a No. 2 pencil, which prompted me to read about the authors. I learned that Michael J. Metts and Andy Welfle teach a workshop together called “Writing Is Designing: The Fundamentals of UX Writing.” In addition, Welfle is a host on “The Erasable Podcast” about wooden pencils. Before I even opened the cover, I knew this book was written by two people that are passionate about words and the impact of those words.

This book is filled with information about how words create a user’s experience, including strategy, voice, tone, and more. These concepts are broken out in eight chapters. But what I found most interesting was in Chapter 6 about voice, where the authors share the principles they used to create this book’s voice. At the end of the section, they ask, “How did we do?” (p. 116). While it was a rhetorical question, I thought it offered a unique way for me evaluate this book. According to them, the voice principles they used are (pp. 115–116):

    • Instructional, but not dumbed down
    • Conversational, but not overly familiar
    • Confident, but not a know-it-all
    • Passionate, but not theatrical
    • Pragmatic, but not prescriptive
    • Entertaining, but not goofy

I found Writing Is Designing to be all these things, some more than others. As I already mentioned, the authors are clearly passionate about words. In addition, they are conversational and entertaining in making this book very accessible and relatable. Throughout the book, I often found myself smiling or nodding at the little anecdotes shared by Metts and Welfle.

With that said, there were two principles that I felt were lacking in the book. In particular, I found this book to be informational rather than instructional. Although this may read like I’m being too rigid with the word choice, I think it’s an important distinction. This book served as a starting point for understanding key concepts, pointing me to sources I should investigate further. I was left with a list of names, other books, and concepts that I need to research. I find this to be a strength of the book; they pull multiple pieces of information together into a coherent argument for the importance of words. But I didn’t feel like I was given a clear call to action, which I believe is a key part of instruction.

If you are passionate about words and their effect, you’ll find a kindred voice in Writing Is Designing. The book ends reminding the reader that we can improve our users’ experience because we work with words and therefore have the capacity to make a difference.

Sara Buchanan

Sara Buchanan is an STC member and a content strategist at LCS in Cincinnati, OH. In her free time, she’s an avid reader, and enjoys cooking and doting on her cats, Buffy and Spike.

The Fundamentals of Graphic Design

Gavin Ambrose, Paul Harris, and Nigel Ball. 2020. 2nd ed. Bloomsbury Visual Arts. [ISBN 978-1-4742-6997-1. 192 pages, including index. US$36.95 (softcover).]

The Fundamentals of Graphic Design delivers a comprehensive, cleverly designed overview of graphic design for a student or novice. Experts in the field may not gain new knowledge, but they will appreciate the examples coupled with each description and the book’s layout. Each of the six chapters focuses on an important aspect of the field from design as a discipline in Chapter 1 through the production process in the last chapter.

Like a well-designed branding campaign, the book appears polished and well-thought out; it practices the guidance it teaches. Starting with the table of contents, each section breaks into clearly defined and manageable sections. The chapters include footer descriptions like website breadcrumbs to shepherd the reader between topics. In Chapter 2, the authors explain “the grid,” which is “a template or guide used for positioning and organizing” (p. 58). Template examples appear on the page and if you step back, you notice the whole book follows grids like those in the examples. This became an enjoyable treasure hunt–reading a description, then trying to find the guidance in practice in the book. From fonts to print finishing, the book kept reinforcing its teachings.

The publisher promised this second edition included updates relating to digital media. Rather than focus on digital updates, the authors threaded their digital advice throughout each section as they felt it applicable. They addressed some of these updates with information about delivering content in various formats and reminded readers to think about how their audiences would see their work (print versus screen, etc.). Also, some topics included successful, timely online designs. For example, Chapter 5’s “Procuring Work” section provided notable self-promotion websites meant to inspire students and new designers in need of identifying and conveying their own brand.

The authors caution against thinking of graphic design as a trade. “It is more useful to look at the underlying approach to design that a graphic designer takes in order to understand his or her role in the print and digital production process” (p. 12). The Fundamentals of Graphic Design dissects this underlying approach into several foundational topics. The writing is easy to understand and includes supporting examples as well as seasoned advice. But its design, examples, and ease in referencing other sources of inspiration make it worthy of any designer’s library.

Stephanie Saylor

Stephanie Saylor is a senior technical writer and outreach coordinator at CACI. She received her master’s degree in digital communication from Johns Hopkins University.

Writing and Designing Manuals and Warnings

Patricia A. Robinson. 2020. 5th ed. CRC Press. [ISBN 978-0-367-11109-0. 316 pages, including index. US$139.95 (hardcover).]

Writing and Designing Manuals and Warnings is intended as a reference for technical writers, marketing directors, product safety managers, and anyone involved with or interested in manuals, manufacturing, and safety. This book has been the authoritative resource in instructional writing and manual design since its first published edition in 1984. This fifth edition divided into four sections brings many needed updates to this venerable text.

Product Safety in the 21st Century. Chapters 1 and 2 explain why companies develop manuals and why consumers need them, the evolving ideas about what products are and how we communicate about them, how to identify audiences and conduct hazard analyses, and navigating the proliferation of safety and liability standards around the world.

The Making of a Manual. Chapters 3–7 describe how manuals are designed and written, running the gambit from writing clearly and concisely to the meaningful use of photos, illustrations, and diagrams. Chapter 7 describes how different types of manuals may differ in terms of organization and language.

You Have Been Warned. Chapters 8 and 9 discuss the fundamentals of products-liability law, the parts of warnings and risk messages, and warning label standards.

Making It Work in the Real World. Chapter 10 describes the working lives of the people who develop manuals, their teams, the conditions in which project deadlines are determined, and organizational politics. Chapter 11 describes building a products liability team and illustrates a real-life situation in the team developing and implementing an integrated product safety plan.

Besides updated examples, the fifth edition includes some new topics. Chapter 1 opens with new information about how the definition of product has expanded to include instructions, marketing materials, and warning labels (this calls to mind the wide net cast by the user experience discipline). Chapter 1 also adds new material about the Internet of things, voice-activated devices, and augmented reality. Chapter 2 includes new discussions about consumer expectations for product safety and discusses how each of us balance risk versus utility as we use various products. For example, chainsaws have unguarded teeth, can kick back, and create gas emissions; but, despite these risks, they are useful tools. Chapter 8 expands the discussion on the reasons products liability cases increasingly focus on failures to warn.

With any book revision, some material is retired—or demoted to a passing mention—and this revision is no exception. The fifth edition no longer includes the section called “How Do I Find…?” which included information about the various tactics the readers use to locate information quickly. Additionally, the sections on managing translation and the challenges of a global economy have been removed. Given how difficult it can be for a new writer to imagine the myriad ways readers navigate manuals and the ever increasing need to write with translation in mind, these sections seem too relevant to cut.

The fifth edition feels less cohesive than previous editions. For example, the first chapter, once a short introduction that explained why companies produced manuals and consumers read them, now also meanders through the topics of technology, globalization, and international regulations. Chapter 2 discusses identifying your audience but then also veers into performing a hazard analysis—a topic that seems better suited for the chapter on warnings. These opening chapters, which were once welcoming, concise introductions to the world of manual writing, now feel overwhelming. This dissolution of cohesive topics is unfortunate for instructors who will now have to assign readings by page number rather than chapters. It’s telling that the author’s forthcoming seminar outline resembles the fourth edition rather than the fifth.

I’ve been a fan of Writing and Designing Manuals and Warnings for 20 years. It continues to serve as an invaluable resource for understanding how and why manuals are made. The updates to the examples depicted and the situations referenced were needed, but they’re not enough to make a compelling case for owners of the fourth edition to upgrade.

Michael Opsteegh

Michael Opsteegh is an STC Associate Fellow and a technical writer in the software and financial services industries since 2004. He is a lecturer in the professional writing program at Cal State Long Beach. Michael holds a master’s degree in English and is a Certified Technical Professional Communicator (CPTC).

Storytelling in Design: Defining, Designing, and Selling Multidevice Products

Anna Dahlström. 2019. O’Reilly Media. [ISBN 978-1-491-95942-8. 416 pages, including index. US$49.99 (softcover).]

As a child, you probably recall hearing Aesop’s legendary fable, The Hare and the Tortoise. This fable, like his others, carries with it a moral that is easily recalled because of the interaction of the two animals in the story. As technical communicators, we can use this same approach (writing a short interaction that is memorable because of the scenario) as we write supporting stories for our Agile process, customer presentations, and product documentation.

Anna Dahlström’s book, Storytelling in Design: Defining, Designing, and Selling Multidevice Products brings a wealth of wisdom from her experience as a Swedish user experience (UX) designer and founder of UX Fika (http://www.uxfika.co/), an online training site for UX and product design. Throughout the book, she draws on her work on a variety of projects from websites and apps to bots to the interface design.

I especially like how she lays the groundwork about storytelling and why it matters. Dahlström then builds on this by introducing Aristotle’s three-act structure: Setup, Confrontation, and Resolution. However, traditional storytelling is changing, as society adapts to new developments in technology, new platforms, and devices. Also, we are developing into an on-demand culture where users can get a variety of products and services at a tap or the click of a button.

Dahlström then addresses a variety of topics, such as character development (Chapter 6); storyboarding (Chapter 8); wireframes, designs, and prototypes (Chapter 13); and culminates with presenting your story (Chapter 14). Two unique chapters are Chapter 5, which addresses dramaturgy or the way we tell our story, and Chapter 12, which discusses choose-your-own-adventure (CYOA) stories where the storyline must still deliver no matter where the user lands.

Throughout her book, Dahlström incorporates exercises, which reinforce the content, and she includes references to articles, which are linked. My favorite article reference is “Story Structures—How to make your messages work” (https://oreil.ly/xiHml, p.250), which spotlights Kurt Vonnegut’s famous shapes of stories. Vonnegut is well known for his thesis work and the link to a YouTube video of a segment from one of his presentations is insightful.

I have two minor frustrations with this book. The Storytelling in Design website mentioned by Dahlström in the Preface (p. xviii) is not available at this time. This is likely because her book was published just a few weeks before my receiving my review copy. Also, the link to the interactive film Black Mirror: Bandersnatch on Netflix (p. 13) did not work. It appears Netflix either changed the URL or made it inactive.

Despite these temporary shortcomings, you will find Storytelling in Design to be a great resource to help you improve your communication to your audience about your product, whether your product uses a desktop computer, a mobile device, or video.

Rhonda Lunemann

Rhonda Lunemann is an STC senior member and a technical writer with Siemens Digital Industry Software. She serves on the STC Twin Cities chapter’s Program Committee and is a member of the MN (Minnesota) Bot Makers.

Teams Unleashed: How to Release the Power and Human Potential of Work Teams

Phillip Sandahl and Alexis Phillips. 2019. Nicholas Brealey Publishing. [ISBN 978-1-529-33704-4. 246 pages, including index. US$29.99 (softcover).]

Teams Unleashed: How to Release the Power and Human Potential of Work Teams provides an excellent overview of the prevailing theories on team dynamics, as well as practical steps to improve team and individual performance.

The authors present a new team-effectiveness model based on attributes that they break into two dimensions—one for productivity and one for collaboration. There are seven productivity attributes and seven “positivity” attributes that, when cultivated, lead to high-productivity, high-positivity teams.

The keys to productivity and collaboration are clearly documented. These keys are an excellent guide for people who are new to working on teams or are new to emotional intelligence theory. For example, trust is a key attribute for collaboration, and it allows for a sense of safety among the group. Mirroring—or making similar gestures and comments of your teammate—increases trust through familiarity.

Communication is another attribute to effective collaboration. Technical communicators excel in this area but might be reminded of the importance for working in teams. Communication should be timely, relevant, sufficient, and responsible, even with your teammates.

Communication and trust are invaluable for conflict resolution as well. Besides taking on conflict before it gets too entrenched, you must be committed to resolving it, look for areas on alignment, listen for understanding varying points of view, and search for solutions or actions.

The discussion on the attribute of diversity is one of my favorite areas of the book: “The [successful] team is open-minded and values differences in ideas, backgrounds, perspectives, personalities, approaches, and lifestyles” (p. 57). Simply including diverse people, however, does not make a great team. Members must feel included. They need to feel both unique in their perspective and have a sense of belonging.

The bulk of Teams Unleashed is dedicated to team coaches. Defined as the person whose primary responsibility is to observe and ask questions, rather than advocate or make recommendations, this role is not that of a consultant or team lead. The team coach is someone dedicated to coaching a team and must learn the skills necessary. Because team coaching is different than individual coaching, the authors provide principals for team coaching and then outline how to prepare to become a team coach. Finally, the book steps through the coaching process, including sample dialogues.

Although the information can be valuable for team members and leaders alike, this book would have benefited from drawing more conclusions for the average reader rather than focusing so much on a role most team members won’t find themselves in.

Wendy Barnhart Ross

Wendy Barnhart Ross is an STC Senior Member, a former STC Rochester chapter president, and supports the Society with diversity and inclusion initiatives. With more than 20 years of technical communication experience, she is a project manager leading technical teams and a blog writer.

Mag Men: Fifty Years of Making Magazines

Walter Bernard and Milton Glaser. 2019. Columbia University Press. [ISBN 978-0-231-19180-7. 288 pages, including index. US $34.95 (hardcover).]

Walter Bernard and Milton Glaser have had long, successful careers as magazine designers, with their contributions having made a significant impact on its history. For over fifty years, they have designed and redesigned some of big names in the industry including New York, Time, Atlantic Monthly, and Fortune, but they have also taken on smaller, less well-known projects like Audience, Paris Match, Alma, and the New York Review of Books. Some are unknown because they never made it off the ground. Mag Men: Fifty Years of Making Magazines tells the stories behind the designs and those who contributed to their success.

The book is divided into three chapters, with the first chapter focusing on New York Magazine and Bernard’s and Glaser’s first partnership. Chapter 2 examines their work separately after they both left New York Magazine. Finally, Chapter 3 brings Bernard and Glaser back together as WBMG (their initials). Mag Men also provides a unique look at history during this period with the inclusion of callouts that report historical events from the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1968, the same year Glaser, Bernard and their team started New York Magazine, to President Barack Obama’s endorsement of gay marriage in 2012 with recent projects, including the redesign of The Nation.

This book is also significant in that it highlights the work from various contributors to the magazines over the years including illustrators, photographers, writers, and editors, acknowledging the collaborative effort it takes to make a successful magazine, rather than implying that the success should be attributed to a single design hero toiling away on their own. Each topic includes information and contributor bios about those who helped make that story a success, or in some cases, a failure. Contributor quotes support the content reflecting on the events and their work. Contributor profiles are also included who have since passed, acknowledging the impact of their work. Lastly, there is a special section on working with women, but throughout the book there is a sense that Bernard and Glaser were never stuck on gender and race, and instead valued contributors for their work, making them ahead of their time fifty years ago.

Mag Men is an entertaining read and will appeal to a variety of readers, with its unique perspective on history, details on designing and redesigning magazines, as well as the successes and pitfalls encountered along the way. Insights are provided on everything from layouts to logos, when to use illustrations versus photography, and when to have a backup plan. The story behind the many adjustments to the New York Magazine logo over the years was particularly fun, with insight provided by Michael Bierut, who led in the 1994 redesign by changing out the previous typeface Bookman Swash, which he found to be “uniquely ugly” only to observe recently that his mindset had changed; now he sees the typeface and thinks “it looks great. Ugly, but great” (p. 19).

Amanda Horton

Amanda Horton holds an MFA in Design and currently teaches graduate and undergraduate courses at the University of Central Oklahoma (UCO) in the areas of design history, theory, and criticism. She is also the director of the Design History Minor at UCO.

The Oxford Handbook of English Grammar

Bas Aarts, Jill Bowie, and Gergana Popova, eds. 2020. Oxford University Press. [ISBN 978-0-19-875510-4. 828 pages, including indexes. US$155.00 (hardcover).]

In The Oxford Handbook of English Grammar, editors Bas Aarts, Jill Bowie, and Gergana Popova provide a wide-ranging overview of contemporary scholarly discussions in the field of English grammar. Technical communicators should note, however, that “This handbook is not…intended to be a grammar of English;” rather, it “provide[s] an authoritative, critical survey of current research and knowledge in the field of English grammar” (p. xxiii). While the book contains much that would be of interest to all technical communicators, such as the discussion of compounds (Chapter 13), regional varieties in English (Chapter 28), and global variation [of grammar] in the anglophone world (Chapter 29), the practical information is couched within field-specific jargon that would likely make it difficult to parse for readers who are not professional grammarians and linguists.

The book comprises 31 chapters by individual authors (nearly all of whom are linguistics professors) that are separated into five parts. Part I: Grammar Writing and Methodology contains a brief history of the writing of important English grammarians such as Noam Chomsky and Randolph Quirk, followed by methodological issues in contemporary grammar. Part II: Approaches to English Grammar provides readers with several different theoretical approaches (what the editors call “frameworks”) to grammar studies, such as generative approaches (Chapter 8) and constructional approaches (Chapter 6). Part III: Subdomains of Grammar further elaborates on the frameworks presented in Part II, showing how the approaches function in different subdomains of grammar, such as clause structure, complements, and adjuncts (Chapter 17). Part IV: Grammar and Other Fields of Enquiry [sic] discusses the relationship between grammar and other fields, such as lexis (Chapter 23), phonology (Chapter 24), meaning (Chapter 25), and discourse (Chapter 26). Part V: Grammatical Variation and Change looks at how English grammar has changed (Chapter 27), varies in different regions (Chapter 28) and around the globe (Chapter 29), and how it varies in different genres (Chapter 30) and literary texts (Chapter 31).

While technical communicators will likely find the book to be too esoteric for everyday use, those who are looking for a concise yet exhaustive dive into the scholarly discourse surrounding English grammar and linguistics would be hard-pressed to find a better, more thorough introduction to the field.

Dylan Schrader

Dylan Schrader is a proposal developer at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, where he also earned an MA in Professional Communication.

Designing Interfaces: Patterns for Effective Interface Design

Jenifer Tidwell, Charles Brewer, and Aynne Valencia. 2020. 3rd ed. O’Reilly. [ISBN 978-1-492-05196-1. 602 pages, including index. US$59.99 (softcover).]

The first thing you notice when you thumb through the third edition of Designing Interfaces: Patterns for Effective Interface Design is how lavishly illustrated the volume is with examples from applications and webpages. All 600-plus pages are printed in vibrant color, which arrests your attention and draws you into the minutest details of user interface (UI) design. This edition is fully revised and more well organized than the previous edition, with additional headings that make this edition much easier to reference. Additionally, the examples have been updated to illustrate the most modern design conventions for various interface design concepts.

The first five chapters cover understanding audience and the design and organization of information. Although technical communicators are familiar with these topics, the authors provide a refreshing review from the UI designer’s perspective. In the “Designing for People” chapter, the authors describe a variety of methods used to research users’ skills, objectives, needs, and attitudes, and they dive into the cognitive patterns people use to complete tasks. The second chapter illustrates the information architecture principles with application interfaces examples. The authors include a help systems section in which they write, “Every well-designed website or application should have some form of help” (p. 111), which many technical communicators will appreciate. In “Getting Around,” the authors describe methods of wayfinding and navigation and ways of reducing users’ cognitive load. The fourth chapter discusses responsive design and many UI attributes that technical communicators associate with page design, like grids, visual flow, and progressive disclosure. In the final chapter in this section, the authors describe how to use visual design principles to establish hierarchy, grouping, and sequence as well as evoke feelings within users.

From here, Designing Interfaces moves away from principles technical communicators use every day and into areas exclusive to interface design. The sixth chapter discusses the challenges, approaches, and opportunities exclusive to mobile interfaces, including location awareness and tiny screens. “Lists of Things” describes the why lists are an important, but challenging, part of webpages and apps, and the authors illustrate various methods for organizing and displaying list items. “Doing Things” describes the ways in which users interact with interfaces using controls and gestures. Even if you use apps every day, this chapter articulates the ways you may not have noticed you interact with apps. “Showing Complex Data” outlines ways data visualization is difficult to do well and outlines the various patterns users use to seek and filter information. The final chapter in this section is “Getting Input from Users,” which is not to be confused with getting feedback from users—that’s in chapter one, which describes how to design forms.

The final two chapters discuss design systems and evolving spaces and technologies behind interfaces.

Designing Interfaces is well written and thoughtfully executed. Whether you’re a user experience designer or a technical writer who documents software, this book is a valuable and beautiful resource for understanding the ways in which software helps or hinders humans.

Michael Opsteegh

Michael Opsteegh is an STC Associate Fellow and a technical writer in the software and financial services industries since 2004. He is a lecturer in the professional writing program at Cal State Long Beach. Michael holds a master’s degree in English and is a Certified Technical Professional Communicator (CPTC).

Leading in a Culture of Change

Michael Fullan. 2020. 2nd ed. Jossey-Bass. [ISBN 978-1-119-59584-7. 180 pages, including index. US$29.95 (hardcover).]

Author Michael Fullan is an authority on educational reform, but his ideas can apply to all kinds of organizations, as explained in Leading in a Culture of Change. One of Fullan’s core ideas is to help achieve the moral purpose of all children learning. This idea appears in his book and can extend to helping people achieve any morally grounded purpose through effective leadership for change in any kind of organization.

Fullan lists five change leadership components. Besides moral leadership, the components are understanding change, building relationships, creating and sharing knowledge, and creating coherence. Fullan argues that a leader can master these components, and, in often difficult conditions, that leader can then mobilize others to accomplish shared goals that are worth achieving as the leader will point out.

Leading in a Culture of Change is based on the idea that change is both inevitable and essential in our modern world. Change can foster creative solutions and innovation plus prevent stagnation. Challenges that come with change can include disruptions due to new technologies and shifting market dynamics. To be an effective leader, one must understand these dynamics and complexities of the process of change plus have a focus on a moral, worthwhile goal.

I was struck as I read this book that one of Fullan’s main ideas is that an effective leader is one who considers that groups should focus on achieving a right and moral goal and work together to do this, which in my mind is an approach leaders could and should use to be effective. Fullan does note, “There is a lot more to moral purpose than moral purpose. It is not a state; it is a dynamic process” (p. 37).

Jeanette Evans

Jeanette Evans is an STC Associate Fellow; active in the Ohio STC community, currently serving on the newsletter committee; and is co-author of an Intercom column on emerging technologies in education. She holds an MS in technical communication management from Mercer University.

Voice and Tone Strategy: Connecting with People through Content

John Caldwell. 2020. XML Press. [ISBN 978-1-937434-68-7. 120 pages, including index. US$24.95 (softcover).]

Voice and Tone Strategy: Connecting with People through Content is a short book full of practical advice. John Caldwell writes from his experience as lead strategist for products like TurboTax, QuickBooks, and Mint.

He starts by differentiating character, voice, and tone. Character “captures who you are” as a brand. Voice is “the relationship you create with customers” in all the ways you touch those customers. Tone is “about mood” and emotion (p. 3).

You can modify voice and tone for different situations—Caldwell calls this “flexing”—but you must always be consistent with your product’s character (p. 2).

Although Caldwell does not mention it, I’m reminded of the article that Mary Coney and Michaël Steehouder published in Technical Communication 20 years ago: “Role Playing on the Web: Guidelines for Designing and Evaluating Personas Online” (August 2000, 327-340). Coney and Steehouder pointed out that “persona” applies not only to the users of a website but also to the “author persona” of the website—its character, voice, and tone.

Caldwell goes beyond the guidelines that Coney and Steehouder gave us by walking us through a framework for developing and using a voice and tone strategy.

In this framework, you start with a goal: What do you want the voice and tone of the product to achieve? For the goal, Caldwell suggests considering the emotional impact you want to have.

Everything you put into the voice and tone framework must serve that goal. Therefore, you want to get input and then “buy in” from key stakeholders, research industry trends so your goal gives you market advantage, align with your organization’s vision and other goals, and be aspirational—think beyond the current box.

From the goal, Caldwell takes us through four building blocks:

    • Customer needs and desires
    • Voice attributes
    • Voice principles
    • Examples

For each building block, he explains how to gather relevant data, think deeply about the issues, and consolidate and select a useful and usable short list. He also devotes Chapter 6 to “flexing” (modifying) both voice and tone for specific situations.

As writers, we can appreciate how voice and tone influence the messages we send. On page 53, Caldwell gives this example from his work with TurboTax: The old voice said, “TurboTax is as easy as 1, 2, 3.” But understanding how vulnerable people feel when dealing with taxes, Caldwell’s team changed to a new voice that says, “Taxes are complex. But we’ll be by your side to conquer them together.” With that hero story, conversion and retention rates went up.

In the final chapters, Caldwell has excellent suggestions for presenting and rolling out your new voice and tone strategy. Throughout—and especially in this part—he reminds us of the power of emotion and storytelling.

Voice and tone are critical to connecting with your users. Caldwell’s book with a specific framework and many examples will help you rethink how to connect most successfully.

Janice (Ginny) Redish

Ginny Redish helps clients and colleagues meet business goals and users’ needs through content strategy and plain language. Her book, Letting Go of the Words – Writing Web Content that Works, (Elsevier, 2nd ed., 2012) still gets rave reviews. Ginny is an STC Fellow and winner of several STC awards.

Cracking the Digital Ceiling: Women in Computing Around the World

Carol Frieze and Jeria L. Quesenberry, eds. 2020. Cambridge University Press. [ISBN 978-1-108-74007-4. 356 pages, including index. US$29.99 (softcover).]]

In recent years, a great number of studies have been conducted on “under-representation” of women in various science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields in America, including the fast-developing field of computer science (CS). According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (2017), in the United States, “women held only 26% jobs” in computer science, compared to “55% women entrepreneurs in the Internet industry in China (PRCSCIO, 2015)” (pp. 2–3). Various factors such as socio-economic backgrounds, religious beliefs, and race were cited as probable causes. Cracking the Digital Ceiling: Women in Computing Around the World is a fine addition to this extensive research on the topic, as it further strengthens the case for more women to participate in digital economies.

The book is a definitive, thought-provoking, and extremely well-organized collection of global perspectives carefully curated by experts Carol Frieze and Jeria Quesenberry. The editors collaborated with close to 30 authors to identify and compile current research that, once more, forcefully challenges the notion that computing is for men only. At the book’s forefront is a complex, rich discussion on the role that numerous cultural factors play in determining women’s participation in CS in more than 50 countries. As well as the need to change, if slowly, some of the cultural biases, attitudes, and low expectations towards female performance in STEM. The editors identify the term “culture” as “the complex and broad set of relationships, values, attitudes, and behaviors […] that bind a specific community consciously and unconsciously” (p. 7).

Cracking the Digital is organized in four parts: global perspectives, regional perspectives, cultural perspectives from the United States and Europe, and cultural perspectives from Asia-Pacific. To assist in navigating the research, the introduction offers a useful feature, the Chapter overview table, that provides a brief survey for each article, and mentions its main topics. After each research article, one finds a series of discussion questions that address the issues at hand and extend our understanding and thinking about a particular research point. Extensive, up-to-date references contain a wealth of information and provide further clarification on research in each article. In addition, the researchers contributed articles with fascinating and very readable, if somewhat dense, statistics (line graphs, infographics, comparative tables), extensive interviews with female computer scientists and STEM researchers, and fascinating vignettes.

Tetyana Darian

Tetyana Darian has an M.S. in Pure Math and is currently a part-time lecturer in mathematics at Rutgers University Camden.

Rhetorical Machines: Writing, Code, and Computational Ethics

John Jones and Lavinia Hirsu, eds. 2019. The University of Alabama Press. [ISBN 978-0-8173-5954-6. 280 pages, including index. US$34.95 (softcover).]

Rhetorical Machines: Writing, Code, and Computational Ethics is an insightful, multi-disciplinary collection that challenges its readers to consider computational code rhetorically. Rhetorical Machines argues—through original essays to “chatbot” (automated computational conversation agents) transcripts—that the human-machine relationship between computation and rhetoric is visible both socially and culturally. This book invites the reader to analyze and engage with rhetoric by considering different perspectives within our digital culture.

John Jones and Lavinia Hirsu organize the collection in four parts: (1) Emergent Machines, (2) Operational Codes, (3) Ethical Decisions and Protocols, and (4) Responses. Together, these sections cover wide ground, from physical hardware, software, and programming in “Emergent Machines” to the ethical results or consequences associated with software and program design in “Ethical Decisions and Protocols.” All four sections provide insight into the visible and invisible effects computation and rhetoric have on each other. Each section also broaches to answer questions about computational communication, including how algorithmic operations relate to representations of race, how user relationships threaten sexual order, and more.

The collection examines rhetoric as an authored machine, focusing on its invisible components and inner workings—human, logistic, material, mathematical, and algorithmic. Jones and Hirsu are not questioning if computation and rhetoric are related to each other but rather how the two operate together. By including original essays from a wide range of perspectives and disciplines, the collection does not define or isolate the relationship between rhetoric and computation, but rather investigates new linkages between computation, community, and rhetoric(s).

There is a certain amount of urgency associated with understanding the relationship between computational and rhetorical machines. This urgency is a call-to-action for readers—“To work with(in) rhetorical machines, rhetoricians and programmers alike need to take on the role of explorers in areas which may often go beyond human understanding, control, or analytical desire” (p. 8). We need to think about the link we have with our machines and listen to what they have to say if we are to become involved in the computational rhetoric defining our communication today.

Rhetorical Machines asks its readers to explore the complex human-machine relationship by looking at the physical, procedural, and software-related aspects of computation. The authors suggest that those computational aspects, along with our rhetorical understanding of them, are imperative in recognizing our current digital culture.

I enjoy Jones and Hirsu’s inclusion of the “chatbot” transcripts (A.L.I.C.E., Mitsuku, and Elbot) to explore deeply the connection between the human mind and machine program. The conversations offer a bit of comedic relief to a subject that might otherwise be heavy for some readers:

L.&J.: How do you feel about the work that you do?

A.L.I.C.E.: Try searching the web.

L.&J.: You are not the web.

A.L.I.C.E.: You don’t know me well enough to say that. (p. 15)

The book’s well-organized layout, multi-disciplinary essays, and incorporation of “chatbot” transcripts make it a pleasurable, insightful read.

Lindsay Scott

Lindsay Scott is an STC student member of the Clemson University and North Carolina chapters as well as the Academic and Technical Editing SIGs. She is currently pursuing a master’s degree in Writing, Rhetoric, and Media at Clemson University.

Women Can’t Paint: Gender, the Glass Ceiling and Values in Contemporary Art

Helen Gørrill. 2020. Bloomsbury Visual Arts. [ISBN 978-1-5013-5903-3. 284 pages, including index. US $35.95 (softcover).]

The title Women Can’t Paint: Glass Ceiling and Values in Contemporary Art comes from a statement made by Georg Baselitz, a male artist and critic, who, in 2013 stated, “Women don’t paint very well, it’s a fact” (copyright page). His assertion is based on the idea that women don’t pass the market/value test. In other words, their works aren’t selling or aren’t attaining the same prices as those of male artists, therefore they aren’t particularly good artists. Artist, curator, and historian Helen Gørrill was motivated by this statement to revisit Linda Nochlin’s 1971 landmark article, “Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?”, to further investigate these ideas. This book specifically addresses the subject of inequality of female painters, as painting has been historically ascribed as a masculine field, though the gender disparities discussed apply to other artistic practices as well.

The contemporary issues addressed in Women Can’t Paint regarding gender in the artworld are numerous, and readers might be surprised at the range and extent at which these issues still exist. This includes the valuing or devaluing of female artists, gender inequality in museums and art prizes, despite public relations from museums and awarding institutions that emphasizes equality, and issues such as ageism. This book challenges the inherent problems in the system and provides evidence the artworld is not the “progressive and liberal community” many believe it to be.

Women Can’t Paint presents facts evidenced by statistical data that a large gender value gap exists in the artworld, employing both qualitative and quantitative research methods. The qualitative approach includes a series of interviews of women and men associated with the artworld, while the quantitative research methods includes data gathered from 1992–94 and 2012–14. The author notes that numbers, or quantitative assessments, are often disregarded by artists, and therefore some readers may disregard a large portion of the content. Yet the numbers do not lie, and Gørrill makes a case for more quantitative studies to be conducted within art fields.

Women Can’t Paint is a valuable work emphasizing continued gender disparity for female artists. Gørrill acknowledges this subject area is “provocative and contentious” and many within the system will deny the conclusions presented. Regardless, problems continue, the work of male artists tends to be appraised for what it is, while the work of female artists is generally first regarded in terms of gender. The inclusion of women in museums and art prizes largely appears to be tokenism rather than efforts of true equality. Educational institutions continue to be part of the problem, not the solution. The content of Women Can’t Paint will shake the foundations of an institution where the glass ceiling is not only firmly in place, but as Gørrill presents, is descending. So, while women are not achieving the same market value as men in painting, the numbers indicate this is part of a larger problem stemming from the devaluing of art by women from the institutions that control the system, not a reflection of the quality of work they produce.

Amanda Horton

Amanda Horton holds an MFA in Design and currently teaches graduate and undergraduate courses at the University of Central Oklahoma (UCO) in the areas of design history, theory, and criticism. She is also the director of the Design History Minor at UCO.

Pencils You Should Know: A History of the Ultimate Writing Utensil in 75 Anecdotes

Caroline Weaver. 2020. Chronicle Books. [ISBN 978-1-4521-7837-0. 168 pages. US$16.95 (hardcover).]

Pencils You Should Know: A History of the Ultimate Writing Utensil in 75 Anecdotes—, written by Caroline Weaver, owner of CW Pencil Enterprise, a New York store that sells pencils—gives her position on, what some might call, a dying industry. While pencils are not at their peak, Weaver is proof that there is still a market for these items.

This book is aesthetically pleasing with all the key components of a “coffee table” book, rife with full-page pictures of various pencils that have been manufactured from the early 1800s all the way to 2017. On the opposite page of each pencil is a paragraph of text explaining how that pencil adds to its collective history.

The “Crayon Velours Pencil” (p. 22), for example, was created by Nicholas-Jacques Conté, a French hot-air-balloon engineer during the Anglo-French war when France didn’t have access to quality British graphite. Conté took finely ground mediocre graphite, mixed it with water and powdered clay, and fired it in a kiln. To this day, pencils are still made this way with only minor improvements.

Weaver takes the reader through a vast history of pencils by covering only tidbits of information about anything related to pencils, such as the companies that manufactured them, the functional or aesthetic anomalies, and, sometimes, the famous writers that wrote with them. The “Dart 1172 No. 2 Pencil” (p. 38) best illustrates such tidbits because it exhibited a unique design with an eraser shaped like a dart. As part of a rapidly growing industry, Eberhard Faber Pencil Company could make bold design choices as they were one of the Big Four, “a term used to describe the four largest pencil companies in the United States” (p. 166).

While the book mostly covers pencils that are no longer in production, there are a few that are still being manufactured—most notably, the “Graphicolor and Editor Pencils” (p. 158), which were manufactured in 2017 by Caran d’Ache and designed by Weaver. Both pencils are half graphite core with the other half being a red core (the Editor) and a pigmented yellow highlighter (the Graphicolor).

While pencils are not designed and manufactured at the same rate they once were, they are still available for the people that want them. If you’re someone that swoons over paper and writing utensils, it’s safe to say you’ll enjoy reading Pencils You Should Know and likely learn a thing or two as well.

Sara Buchanan

Sara Buchanan is an STC member and a content strategist at LCS in Cincinnati, OH. In her free time, Sara is an avid reader, and enjoys cooking and doting on her cats, Buffy and Spike.

Dreaming the Graphic Novel: The Novelization of Comics

Paul Williams. Rutgers University Press. [ISBN 978-1-9788-0506-4. 262 pages, including index. US$29.95 (softcover).]

The title of Paul Williams’ Dreaming the Graphic Novel: The Novelization of Comics succinctly captures the theme: how a “spikey, disjointed process” of contentious debate among creators and readers of comic books during the “long 1970s” (~1964–1980) drove the evolution of a new aesthetic form, the graphic novel (pp. 19, 189). Dreaming, with its paradoxical combination of disorganization and direction, is a fitting metaphor for the fragmented pictorial organization of comic books, their images self-contained yet loosely related to each other, implying a unified, longer form narrative, or a kind of “novelization.” As the title suggests, the graphic novel as a new, unique literary genre emerged from a fractious period of debate and experimentation.

During the long 1970s, the original comic book audience, children, matured into adults, lost interest in the form, and bought fewer copies. Increased paper costs and distribution complications squeezed profit margins. And creators and fans disagreed vehemently about whether a new genre was needed and if so what it should be called—“graphic story,” “graphic album,” “graphic history,” and “graphic narrative” were all considered before settling on “graphic novel.” The contentiousness of the discussion stemmed from a basic contradiction: whether comics should remain on the margins of culture, authentic in their resistance to institutionalization, or, because of the aesthetic inferiority that implied, seek artistic legitimacy through canonization—the very institutionalization the form sought to avoid in attempting to keep its authenticity and counter-culture posture.

The graphic novel’s goal, therefore, was to retain the outsider status of traditional comic books while enhancing its broader institutional, cultural, and aesthetic value. The term “novel” was particularly transformative because it implied seriousness, extended narrative continuity, complex characters, and single-author creation and ownership of content. The term “graphic,” in turn, connoted the pictorial energy and rebellious attitude of traditional comics. The graphic novel was not to be read as just “another illustrated nineteenth-century novel,” or as just another traditional, but simply longer, comic book (p. 142). It had to establish a unique aesthetic identity.

Richard Corben’s Neverwhere illustrates these requirements by combining literary techniques associated with classic novels, especially narrative complexity and verisimilitude, with an “airbrush technique” that “made his comics ‘realistic’” (p. 142). The innovative pictorial realism and sophisticated, novelistic prose result in a new aesthetic form that turns “two-dimensional lines (a script) into three-dimensional people (the finished art) so the reader doesn’t have to” (p. 143).

The graphic novel’s advent also meant a different format or “materiality” for the book—hard covers, sewn binding, higher quality paper stock—material signifiers of a book meant to be kept, not read once then discarded. The book’s physical permanence suggested the aesthetic seriousness and cultural legitimacy of mainstream fiction and art.

As Williams’ detailed scholarship shows, efforts by major creators like Corben, Will Eisner, and Art Spiegelman secured academic and cultural legitimacy for the graphic novel while ensuring, through their newly integrative approach, a differential art recognized for its aesthetic seriousness yet independent of institutional strictures.

Donald R. Riccomini

Donald R. Riccomini is an STC member and a senior lecturer in English at Santa Clara University, where he specializes in teaching engineering and technical communications. He previously spent 23 years in high technology as a technical writer, engineer, and manager in semiconductors, instrumentation, and server development.

Technology and Society: A World History

Andrew Ede. 2019. Cambridge University Press. [ISBN 978-1-108-44108-7. 324 pages, including index. US$34.00 (softcover)].

The tempo of change today is dizzying. No sooner do we get accustomed to one technology than it is upstaged by another. No period in history has experienced such a rate of change except perhaps for the first half of the 20th century.

Technology and Society: A World History gives us much to choose from; tracing the role of technology from the beginning of human society––from the stone age to the digital age––and its sometimes surprising effects on virtually every aspect of society: economic, social, and political. Hopefully, greater awareness of these interactions will help us better understand the faster-than-light changes occurring in the digital age we are now living through.

Ede stresses that “technology is a system, not a collection of artifacts,” and as such, includes forms not based on physical objects: “invisible technologies” such as education. As he says, “Education is one of the most powerful technologies ever created, in part because it trains people to use technology” (p. xi).

He discusses the relationship between technology and political systems, pointing out that “Western powers came to dominate international relations in the last 500 years partly because technology gave them an advantage over other groups of people” (p. 6). And, of course, its many unexpected consequences: The technology of printing “may have made mass democracy possible, but democracy was not an inevitable product of printing” (p. 11). Not to speak of the term “industrial revolution” itself that overturned the economic systems of the countries that embraced it. We even label long swaths of human history by their technologies: the Neolithic Age, Stone Age, the Bronze Age, and even today, by such terms as “industrialized” versus “developing” countries (p. 1).

What Ede calls the second industrial revolution picks up with the introduction of commercial radio in 1920, followed by transatlantic telephone service in 1927; a year when news also appeared on newsreels. Commercial TVs were starting to be manufactured by 1940, but production was delayed by the war. Almost 10 percent of U.S. households had TV sets by 1950; the figure climbed to 92 percent by 1965 (p. 265).

And finally, the digital age, ushered in by the computer. Here Ede stresses that while hardware is important, it was really the software that turned the computer into such a powerful tool: applications for word processing, accounting, and databases that, along with the new computer languages, that helped move computers out of the laboratory and into the worlds of business, education, and home use (p. 276).

His last chapter, The Digital Age, previews topics like robotics and the internet, though he refrains from the ubiquitous and ever-evolving areas of social media and IoT, IT and AI, and the computer’s thousand other newly hatching offspring.

Steven Darian

Darian’s most recent book is the 2nd revised edition of his Technique in Nonfiction: The Tools of the Trade, 2020.

Eternal Impact: Inspire Greatness in Yourself and Others

Troy Nix. 2020. Advantage Media Group. [ISBN 978-1-59932-997-0]. 118 pages. US$14.99 (softcover).]

Eternal Impact: Inspire Greatness in Yourself and Others is a self-help book aimed towards gaining leadership skills using self-reflection redirected outward through positive influence. Motivational speaker Troy Nix presents stories in a casual speaking style meant to inspire, with the main message that motivation does not spark change. Instead, it takes small, incremental steps to change one’s attitude and perspective, prior planning, and taking ownership and responsibility of your situation to set a leadership example to others.

While this book is meant to be a “feel good” book to encourage readers to understand what it takes to be more confident leaders, it did not inspire much. Most of the book did not contain any information that was novel, innovative, or inspiring. If anything, this was a difficult book to read while in a pandemic, as it started with the setting of a funeral and continued with many stories about people with cancer, battling drug addictions, and other hardships!

Nix’s perspective is understandable in attempting to demonstrate how to turn the negative into something positive, but it is not always relatable. While it makes sense that he relays his stories from his own experiences, those experiences and perspectives are from his point of view as a male in his late fifties who had started his career in the armed forces, then applied some of those life lessons to the rest of his career as the “man as the breadwinner.” He also employs several sports metaphors and examples to get his point across. Nix makes references that would only relate to people who are Gen-X or older (and maybe a few older millennials). It is written more as if he was speaking to those who are more like himself than a broader audience.

There are also some issues with some of what Nix suggests, especially with his chapter about “no excuses”—taking ownership as a leader. His concept is that if something on his team fails, it is because he alone failed his team as a leader. He did not seem to ever suggest that team members did not equally take responsibility or ownership for themselves that would cause breakdowns.

The pitch of Eternal Impact is that if you follow his methods, your success is guaranteed. After reading this book, applying most of these things will certainly help to change attitudes and promote more success, but it is not a guarantee for success. The book lacked discussions about the balance of work and life, and the balance of perseverance versus burnout, for example, that may have been more helpful as guidance to help implement his methods more successfully. While this book’s intention is meant to be inspirational, it is only lackluster at best.

Danielle M. Villegas

Danielle M. Villegas is an STC Associate Fellow and active member of the STC Philadelphia Metro Chapter (PMC). She has also been the Conference and Sponsorship Chairs for STC-PMC’s Mid-Atlantic Regional Conference, CONDUIT, for the past four years, as well as having served as chapter president and vice president/programming chair.

Writing an Interactive Story

Pierre Lacombe, Gabriel Féraud, and Clément Rivière. 2020. CRC Press. [ISBN 978-0-367-41031-5. 234 pages, including index. US$49.95 (softcover).]

Many people, while growing up, have encountered a classic Choose Your Own Adventure book. In that style of book, the story unfolds differently based on decisions the reader makes. Do you explore that mysterious cave and turn to page 123, or do you go down to the river and turn to page 67? The spiritual successor to such books is the genre of computer games where you make similar decisions to drive a plot within the game. Similarly, tabletop roleplaying games such as “Dungeons and Dragons” use a framework where the people experiencing the game make choices that drive the storyline. That is what is known as an Interactive Story. Creating such content; whether it is for a book, computer game, or roleplaying game; can have a similar workflow. In Writing an Interactive Story, three experienced storywriters come together to share their experiences and to teach the reader how to craft their own interactive story.

The three authors, who hail from France, have an excellent understanding of the English language, so you should not be put off by the occasional awkward phrasing. Altogether, the book is well-written and very readable with the authors including brief interviews with other international, award-winning game designers. These excerpts serve to highlight the topics of each chapter, and to add real-world examples and applications to the presented theories. Instruction, background, theory, and nostalgia are well-mixed throughout the book. Brief histories of different story genres are given, such as Choose Your Own Adventures, which will bring a smile to anyone who has enjoyed these in the past. Classic computer games are mentioned and used as examples to illustrate story writing mechanics. The people crafting today’s game and book experiences were often inspired by the same games and books that inspired you to read this book, and it is satisfying to apply those common influences towards an interactive product.

Overall, this is a handy resource and a visually appealing book. It contains many illustrations, as well as flow charts demonstrating how to drive story choices through dialogue in a game, actions to take, and characters to develop. Even if you are not creating an interactive story, the authors provide a solid groundwork for developing characters and plots that can be applied to any creative writing. If you are thinking of crafting any such interactive story, be it in a game or a book, Writing an Interactive Story will give you plenty of resources to get started. If you were not thinking of making your own adventure story but are now, pick up a copy of this book and turn to page 21.

Timothy Esposito

Timothy Esposito is an STC Fellow, STC Secretary (2020-2022), and a past president of the STC Philadelphia Metro chapter with more than 20 years of technical communication experience. He has served in his chapter as chapter vice president, treasurer, webmaster, and scholarship manager.

Suffrage and the Arts: Visual Culture, Politics and Enterprise

Miranda Garrett and Zoë Thomas, eds. 2020. Bloomsbury Visual Arts. [ISBN 978-1-350-12867-5. 282 pages, including index. US$34.95 (softcover).]

Suffrage and the Arts: Visual Culture, Politics and Enterprise is a collection of 11 essays that share central themes surrounding the suffrage movement in the United Kingdom (UK). Through individual topics, each author investigates the impact visual culture had on the enfranchisement for women in the UK. The topics vary from women’s art organizations and their ties to suffrage, the influence and impact of female artists and designers, women-led enterprise, marketing the suffrage movement, visual representation and symbolism, and even iconoclasm. The collection is divided into four sections including Institutional Politics, Enterprise and Marketing, Paintings on Display, and Representing Suffrage that examines a wide range of visual culture from ephemera to fine art.

Suffrage and the Arts acknowledges the contributions of the Irish and Scottish in the suffrage movement, which have previously been overlooked in traditional historical analysis of the women’s suffrage movement in the UK in favor of a London-centric view. The essay “The artistic, social and suffrage networks of Glasgow School of Art’s women artists and designers” explores the contributions of women artists in Scotland with author Liz Arthur acknowledging that “Although Charles Rennie Mackintosh was the best-known adherent, women far outnumbered men as active participants in the decorative arts” (p. 60). In “‘An arts and crafts society, working for the enfranchisement of women’: Unpicking the political threads of the Suffrage Atelier, 1909–1914”, author Tara Morton also digs into the diversity of historical analysis of those underrepresented in history. Morton states, “the Suffrage Atelier was somewhat unique in functioning as both a commercial and a political arts and crafts enterprise” (p. 69) but points out that many of the women within the Atelier are not well documented, especially the amateur and working-class artists who collaborated to develop banners and other items for the suffrage movement.

While the book’s main theme centers around arts and enfranchisement for women, several essays acknowledge male support and involvement in the suffrage movement as shown in the essay, “The spectacle of masculinity: Men and the visual culture of the suffrage campaign”, that focuses on how men who supported suffrage were represented by the opposition as emasculated, effeminate, or hysterical. The “hysterical man” representation can be a particular insult since it was largely viewed that only women lacked the power to control their emotions, which inherently made them weak (p. 221).

Suffrage and the Arts examines the power of visual representation and proves that both sides of the movement understood its value. Suffragettes were encouraged to be well-dressed and present themselves as poised to counteract the unflattering cartoons and propaganda from the opposition. Leaders of the suffrage movement also made use of propaganda by publishing images of female prisoners being force fed to illicit sympathy from viewers. Suffrage supporters were unified under a variety of symbols and distinct color palettes that successfully marketed and branded the movement. The wide range of topics covered within Suffrage and the Arts makes for an interesting collection that has something for anyone interested in learning more about this important historical era.

Amanda Horton

Amanda Horton holds an MFA in Design and currently teaches graduate and undergraduate courses at the University of Central Oklahoma (UCO) in the areas of design history, theory, and criticism. She is also the director of the Design History Minor at UCO.