Volume 42, Issue 4

December 2002


Eleven Don’ts of Company Holiday Party Etiquette

by Gary Michael Smith, Senior Documentation Specialist, Information Technology Center

Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, or Epiphany, chances are you’ll be invited to a company holiday party. Some professionals may tell you that this really isn’t a time to relax—it’s a time for networking, complimenting, and overall schmoozing. But they’re wrong. And to help put you on the fast track to corporate success, I’ve developed a list of helpful recommendations. Naturally, you should adjust the list to fit your environment.

Head for the buffet line

When you first arrive at the party, bypass colleagues and clients on the way to the food. You’ll have plenty of time for them later, and chances are the food will be free so you don’t want to miss out. Also, say that you plan on getting your and your company’s money’s worth. Your company paid for the spread, and in today’s economy, it’s simply wrong to waste corporate funds.

Then complain about it

Naturally, the food will be catered, so even if it is a gastronomical delight, try to find something wrong with it. Then, tell as many people as will listen. It’ll impress your boss and upper management that you have exquisite culinary taste and an eye for detail.

Take advantage of the open bar

If you’re lucky to work for a company that will pay for the alcohol as well as the food, be sure to drink up. Joke that you’re buying drinks for everyone; the more often you say it, the funnier it gets. Again, your managers will be amazed at your ability to hold your liquor, not to mention the confidence that you seem to gain while drinking.

BYOB if it’s a cash bar

If you work for a government contractor, medical institution, or any other facility that does not pay for alcoholic beverages at company functions, simply bring your own. Silver flasks are classy, but they simply don’t hold enough. Fifths in the classic brown paper bag, on the other hand, will make a statement about your no-nonsense style. Bringing an entire gallon will make you friends.

Arrive late

Everyone knows that being late is fashionable. Holiday parties are an especially appropriate venue to show your social savvy. But do not come too late, because this will cut into your eating and drinking time.

Leave late

As with any party, always be the last to leave. It shows the host how much fun you’re having. (And never mind any side comments that you should have left long ago.) If you feel too confident to drive, simply find a secluded area where you can sleep it off until the morning.

Talk down to lower level staffers

This is the perfect opportunity to throw your weight around. Ask subordinates to give up their seat when you approach, to get you food and drinks, to take a memo on something you’re saying. They’ll be impressed at your take-charge ability, even if you have no real authority at work.

Deride colleagues

If you’ve been at your job for a while you’ll probably know quite a lot about your workmates. Use this time to tease them about professional limitations and personal flaws. If they recently failed in a project, bring it up—even if it happened long ago; they’ll enjoy reminiscing with you.
Bring their spouse and children into it too, if possible. It’s a party after all, and everyone likes a joker.

Vent grievances

As the night progresses, approach supervisors and managers—even the CEO if available—to present any and all concerns with the job, the company, co-workers, and whatever else comes to mind. You may not have another chance later, and they’ll appreciate your candidness. If time permits, discuss your political and religious views as well. Seize this moment to “set the record straight.”

Dance with everyone who counts

Although you’ll lose valuable complaining and criticizing time, you must dance to show your prowess on the linoleum. But choose as partners all of your superiors’ spouses; if they decline, be persistent. Once you’ve forced them onto the dance floor, tell them about their significant other’s little idiosyncrasies at work that they may not be privy to at home. And always, always lead.

If clients are present, share company secrets

The best way to keep your clients happy is to keep them in the loop. Divulge your company’s future strategies as well as any serious weaknesses. Attempt to change the relationship from client to friend. Clients will value the confidential information you’ve provided, and your company officials will treasure you for your information-gathering and disseminating ability.

There you have it. Eleven sure-fire ways of making your company holiday party one to remember!

Book Review
eResumes: Everything You Need to Know About Using Electronic Resumes to Tap into Today’s Hot Job Market

by Jeff Staples, Information Developer

Susan Britton Whitcomb and Pat Kendall. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2002. [ISBN 0-07-136399-8. 225 pages, including indexes. $11.95 (softcover)].

Should I use PDF, RTF, or maybe ASCII for creating my e-resume? Do I want to provide specific contact information or do I want my e-resume to convey little contact-related information? These decisions and many others—such as the right keywords to use—are addressed in eResumes. The descriptive subtitle says it all: “Everything you need to know about using electronic resumes.”

This book provides something for all e-resume developers. If you don’t have an electronic resume, you should be able to find out all you need to know to create one. If you have provided your resumes to prospects via the Internet for some time, you might discover items in this book that you haven’t considered before, such as privacy concerns, or find ideas for updating the look of your e-resume with the large array of example resumes.

The authors have included a host of resources for the e-resume developer, including effective writing strategies, visual aids, and effective design templates. Start with the Preface for a quick overview of the book. There, you find a brief synopsis of each chapter and its focus.

Chapter 1 provides interesting information on various types of electronic resumes. However, much of the chapter focuses on why you should take your resume online. Most people in today’s job market probably will not need convincing on the value of providing their resume to the wider market that the Internet can offer.

Chapter 2 focuses on keywords and the value that they add to an e-resume, which will probably be searched rather than read. You learn that today a computer will probably be scanning your resume searching for keywords to decide whether you are a match for the position available. The authors coin a new definition for ROI and consider it “the secret to writing a winning eResume” (page 33). It’s important to be familiar with keywords in your particular industry, and the chapter offers a list of keywords that recruiters say they typically look for and a number of resources for finding applicable keywords.

Chapter 3 covers ASCII e-resumes. You learn coding for ASCII characters and see examples of what can go wrong when characters are used incorrectly. There is a great discussion on formatting resumes to be inserted in e-mail messages and in e-forms on job-search Web sites.

If you have covered Chapter 3, then you have created an ASCII resume. Chapters 4 and 5 take you through the process of submitting your ASCII resume into an e-form and attaching it
to an e-mail message. An important point of the chapter is to use the universal language—plain text—when submitting your e-resume via email and the Internet. Plain text may not be pretty, but it will deliver something that is understandable to the recipient. And don’t forget the cover letter, or you run the risk of being regarded as “a bit clueless.”

Chapter 6 is basically for supplemental reading unless you are unsure of the value inherent in an electronic resume or portfolio. However, it does provide information on the differences between the Web resume and a portfolio. There are good examples on how to enhance the look of a web-based resume.

Chapter 7 conveys options for getting external help in creating your e-resume. No, you do not have to go it alone. Details are provided on various options, such as hiring a professional web page designer and using Microsoft Word’s Save as Web Page option.

In Chapter 8, the focus is on the effectiveness of your e-resume. Many items that you focus on in your printed resume, such as typography and capturing an employer’s attention, hold true for electronic resumes as well. In addition, with an online resume, you can consider features such as graphics and color. Good examples of resumes demonstrate before-and-after effects on e-resumes that use the techniques the authors recommend.

In contrast to Chapter 7 and its options for external help, Chapter 9 is for the do-it-yourself individual. The focus is on creating your own e-resume by working directly with the HTML code. You get a brief overview of the basics of HTML and a reference to resources that offer additional information.

Chapter 10 is a must read, even for the seasoned e-resume developer. Here, you find a discussion of privacy issues associated with posting and distributing e-resumes. In addition, several examples convey how much or how little you want your resume to reveal. But the information does not stop there. Now that you have created your electronic resume, where do you send it? This chapter provides several suggestions on where to post your resume, including career, recreation, and resume-distribution web sites.

The authors have assembled information that covers a multitude of items related to the creation and distribution of e-resumes. This book should serve both as a great starting point to compile or enhance your electronic resume and a great reference in your technical communication library.

Regular Features

Volunteer of the Month
John Turner

by Paul Mueller, Senior Information Development Manager, NetIQ Corporation
Melanie G. Flanders, Chief Information Architect, KnowledgeMasters, Inc.

John Turner is the STC Houston December 2002 Volunteer of the Month for his work as the Share-the-Knowledge (STK) Committee manager. John has managed the STK Committee since its inception over five years ago, and has made arrangements for several innovative sessions.

Last year, John worked closely with Gary Foster to establish our first annual Employment STK. We will reprise this highly successful STK in January 2003. Recently, John also arranged a FrameMaker STK that one attendee described as, “one of the most valuable STKs I’ve ever attended.”

John is a senior technical writer with the Integrity Group, where he has spent most of the past five years documenting hardware and software for Compaq and Hewlett-Packard.

Before becoming a technical writer six years ago, John was a chemistry professor at the University of Houston and other universities. John holds a Ph.D. in chemistry. John has researched ways to offer valuable sessions for our chapter members and he continues to look for new ways to meet our educational needs. This year, John has also become involved with the Programs Committee, working closely with Cindy Pao, our chapter director of programs.

STC Houston is pleased to honor John Turner as December 2002 Volunteer of the Month.

Would you like to be a volunteer? See the "Help Wanted" list.

Letter from Linda
How Do You Spell Success?

by Linda Oestreich, Director-Sponsor, Region 5

Fellow STCers,

I just returned from a delightful visit to the Texas A&M campus to speak to the College Station Student Chapter. As students, the chapter members are at the beginning of their careers. They might join the field of technical communication or follow one of a thousand other career paths. How will they determine whether they have succeeded? I don’t know, but I believe they will succeed.

Success is something we feel about ourselves. Some people equate success with money, some with power, some with fame. Some people define success as being content in who they are and what they do. The criteria for success can differ, depending on the context in which you consider them and the focus you bring to them. Although we can define success from many different viewpoints, I have chosen three to consider here:

Time of Life

When I was first on my own, my priority was to have fun. Later, I changed my behavior to do things that would support my family and enhance my professional development. Still later, I began to do things that would help me gain a connection with the world and would in some way help others around me. Can you see how each phase of my life has reflected very different success factors?

Making Money

This success factor incorporates the trappings of our lives: the neighborhood we live in, the car we drive, and the impression we make on others by the things we have collected. Somewhat incongruously, family obligations show up again. Making money to support a family is
success of a kind different from making money to drive an expensive car.

Feeling Fulfilled

Various things feed our personal, introspective selves. The things that fulfill me on a spiritual level also make me feel successful. Interestingly, strong family connections again show up as an important aspect of that sense of fulfillment.

Although family shows up for me in each area, career (and thus STC) doesn’t show up at all! As I think about this fact, I realize that career is there, but it’s there indirectly. I need a career to have professional development. I need a career to make money. I need a career to feel fulfilled. It turns out that I need a career to help me have the means to do other things, but the career itself is not the actual thing that shows up when I think of success.

I believe success is what we want it to be. And we usually want it to be something different from what we wanted last year—or 10 years ago. I also believe we can be successful in some areas of our lives but not so in others, and it is up to us to figure out whether that’s OK. Some of us have challenging, difficult work lives but have fulfilling relationships, a strong bond with family members, and a good sense of self. To me, such a person is more of a success than the person who makes millions of dollars but has no friends, no feeling of contentment, and weak (or no) bonds with family.

Alex Noble wrote, “Success is not a place at which one arrives but rather is the spirit with which one undertakes and continues the journey.” I believe he was right. May your journey bring you the spirit of success.

From the President
Your Employment Goals and STC

by George Slaughter, Information Developer, BMC Software

With New Year’s Day coming up quickly, many of you will be making resolutions. For some of you, one of those resolutions concerns your employment status. This month we look at how STC can help you turn those employment resolutions to reality.

Upcoming Events

Locally, STC Houston will sponsor its Employment Share-the-Knowledge (STK) seminar on Saturday, January 11, at the Hilton Houston Westchase and Towers, 9999 Westheimer. Gary Foster, our STC Houston Employment Committee manager, organized this popular event last March. Come get your resume critiqued, and hear presentations on networking, creating portfolios, and job interviewing.

Ongoing Service

Most of you know that STC has revamped its www.stc.org web site. The job database kept there is now a members-only feature. To access this database, enter your member identification number—found on your STC membership card—and your password. You can look for contract and permanent employment on this database.

The STC Houston employment web page—www.stc-houston.org/employment.html—remains accessible to everyone. Here you’ll find links to the STC Houston job board, a salary survey, and other useful information. Finally, at each STC Houston program meeting, you’ll find an employment table where you can visit with Gary and his committee about employment issues.

Mastering Knowledge in 2003

Helping people Master Knowledge for Success is at the very heart of what STC and STC Houston are all about. Through these employment services and activities, STC wants to help you be successful in 2003.

From the Editor
The Inner Workings of Dateline Houston

by Rebecca Taylor, Product Marketing Analyst, Hewlett-Packard Company

After the last program meeting, several people asked me what kind of work we do to produce this newsletter. We have a team of six people, who work every month in specific roles.

Coordinating Editor

Also known as the translation editor, the coordinating editor is responsible for ensuring that every submission is in the proper format before going to our copy editors. You might recognize this title because our coordinating editor, Cathy Bettoney, was STC Houston Volunteer of the Month for November. We use FrameMaker 6 for layout, and most submissions come to us in Word, so the coordinating editor translates the files into our template before they are edited.

Copy Editors

We currently have three very talented and dedicated copy editors: Melanie Boston, Jamie Diamandopoulos, and Jim Hunt. Each month, they pore over every submission to make it ready for print. With three editors, each usually must edit four to six pieces.

Layout Editor

Once the copy editors have completed their task, it is up to our layout editor to make it beautiful. Erika Frensley, our layout editor, compiles all of the edited files into our layout template. Of course, it’s not that easy—a layout like ours requires fine-tuning to make sure everything fits.


No newsletter would be successful without authors! STC Houston is lucky to have a large pool of knowledgeable and passionate writers just waiting to be found. There are so many of you that I can’t find you all on my own, so please don’t be shy about introducing yourself to me!

Unnamed Positions

As the chapter and our newsletter grow, our roles are forever changing. Even though our official job titles may be filled, we are still always seeking more volunteers. For instance, we are now posting the entire newsletter on our chapter web site, which means we can use another warm body to help. As we fine-tune our processes, we’re always looking for people to help plan and coordinate the newsletter. If you’re interested in participating, we’ll always be able to find a place just for you! Don’t forget to vote in the Editor’s poll from last month. What would you prefer for our online discussion tool(s): one e-mail list for everything, an e-mail list for announcements and one for discussion, an e-mail list for announcements and a message board for discussion, or message board for everything? View online at www.stc-houston.org/newsletter/poll.shtml.

From the Director of Satellites

by Steve Cunningham, Senior Information Developer, Kitba Consulting Services

Satellites are created where not enough members are concentrated in a geographic area to support a full chapter. STC Houston has satellites in the Louisiana Gulf Coast and Bryan–College Station.

Members of the Louisiana Gulf Coast satellite are located all over Louisiana and work in a variety of industries. The satellite has hosted informative workshops and lectures to enhance the professional development of its members. The membership is kept informed via an e-mail list and its web site at www.stc-houston.org/~stcla. The leadership plans to host networking lunches every other month or so over the course of this year, supplemented by on-demand chat sessions to discuss topics of special interest. STC Louisiana Gulf Coast satellite leaders are Marilyn Barrett O’Leary, Stephen Brunet, and Julie Hebert. The webmaster is Carey Hamburg. For an informative, brief history of this satellite, see www.stchouston.org/~stcla/welcome.shtml.

The Bryan–College Station satellite is led by Karen Graber, who has been an active participant since the satellite was launched in 1996. Karen’s regular duties for the Bryan–College Station satellite include managing an e-mail list and coordinating networking lunches for local technical communicators. Many students attending Texas A&M University can benefit through an association with this satellite. And these young people could eventually infuse STC Houston with the new blood essential to future growth.

Our chapter is extremely appreciative of the services provided by our satellites. So when you think of STC Houston, don’t forget the Bryan–College Station and Louisiana Gulf Coast satellites! When you hear of employment opportunities within Bryan–College Station or Louisiana, forward them to satellite leaders. If your company has facilities in these geographical areas and employs technical communicators, encourage those employees to join STC and become active in their satellite. Also, try to attend events held by our satellite chapters when you can. Their programs offer valuable educational and networking opportunities for all technical communicators.

Chapter News

January Program Meeting
Helping You Find Employment

January’s STC Houston Program Meeting is an employment progression, with the opportunity to listen to three different topics during one meeting. Speakers will be seated at tables in the room, and attendees will move from table to table to listen to the
different topics. Each session lasts approximately 30 minutes. Here are some of the confirmed speakers and topics:

Send your questions to Cindy Pao at cindypao@earthlink.net.


Hilton Houston Westchase and Towers
9999 Westheimer Road


Tuesday, January 14, 2003


5:30 p.m. networking (hors doeuvres)
6:20 p.m. announcements
6:30 p.m. program


During January, STC Houston is offering a special admission to its program meeting. Members who bring a non-member guest get in free! Non-members will also receive free admission after they complete a simple form. Otherwise, normal fees apply:

$10 (members)
$13 (nonmembers)
$3 (student and unemployed members)
$6 (student non-members)


A drawing for various prizes is held at the end of each general meeting. Proceeds benefit the Marx Isaacs Student Scholarship Fund.

STC Employment Committee

by Gary Foster, Program Manager, Kitba Consulting Services

The Houston market for technical writers is slow to almost a crawl during November and December months. This does not mean that there are no jobs out there, because there are. Jobs are just more difficult to find during these months.

Be prepared, so when the market does open, you are ready. Come join us at the second annual Employment Share-the-Knowledge session on January 11, 2003 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Hilton Houston Westchase and Towers, 9999 Westheimer. The STK is free. In our lineup we have the following people with their advice and expertise:

This is an exciting and informative event for our members and the chapter. Enrollment instructions will be posted on the chapter mailing list (www.stc-houston.org/mailinglist.html). For more information, please call me at 281-871-4406.

From the Members
Creative Jargon

by Dan Tolleson, Editing Consultant

Last month, I did some editing on a lengthy technical proposal. Aside from the usual grammatical, spelling, and punctuation problems, I came face-to-face with some new vocabulary—for instance, “to matrix.”

I had already heard of the noun “matrix,” but this is a verb. It is a buzzword among technical people, and it means to share expertise across disciplines and formal job descriptions in order to get the job done more efficiently. In other words, “to matrix” means to cooperate. What about “to cross-utilize?” Upon consulting with other, more experienced editors, I found out that it means the same thing as “to matrix.”

Now, what about “a flexible movement of activities?” Huh? At first glance, the mind boggles. The mental image conveyed by this phrase is blurry, yet very dynamic. Eventually, I figured out what the writer was trying to express: the sharing of expertise across disciplines necessarily entails flexibility, movement, and activity. Yep, you guessed it—“a flexible movement of activities” is a clumsy but creative way of describing the process of “matrixing.” Wow! As I remarked to my immediate supervisor, “There’s some real creativity going on here!”

Another etymological jewel that jumped out at me is “forward action plan.” Did the writer mean to suggest that there might be such a thing as a “backward action plan?” Ooooo! Frightening! Such neophraseologisms are welcome comic relief for grammatical surgeons and experts at message clarification. Perhaps all editors should join in a forward action plan to compile their linguistic discoveries. With enough flexible movement of activities, we might even be able to write a book.

Please send your letters to the editor through our web form at www.stchouston.org/contacteditor.htm.

Judging Party Highlights

STC Houston held its annual Judging Party November 16 at the Hewlett-Packard Company (formerly Compaq). At the party, judges returned the entries that they evaluated, chose Best of Show entries, and enjoyed refreshments.

The annual Technical Publications, Art, and Online Competition remains one of STC Houston’s biggest activities. STC Houston will host its annual Competition Awards Banquet on Friday, February 7, 2003, at the Hilton Houston Westchase and Towers, 9999 Westheimer.

Thanks to Competitions Director Deborah Crockett for organizing the party, and to Melinda Patrick for both serving as Technical Art judging manager and as photographer. Thanks also to Competitions General Manager Deborah Silvi, Technical Publications Judging Manager Jocelyn Williams, Online Judging Manager Brenda Pereira, and to all who participated as judges!

Society & Industry News

STC News

Adding Value for Members

by Bonni Graham, Region 8 Director-Sponsor

By now, you’ve probably noticed that the STC web site has a members-only section; certain features now reside behind a secure logon based on your membership number and a password assigned by the main STC office. Currently, the items in the members-only section are the Society-level job listings, the salary survey, and the member directory. We have limited the access to this information to members only to protect your privacy and increase the value of your membership.

In January 2001, the STC Board of Directors voted to change our policy to allow chapters to restrict certain informational items to members only. We evaluated the variety of information available on chapter Web sites and decided that some of it could legitimately be placed behind a logon. After further discussion, we decided to extend that change in policy to the main STC web site also.

You may be asking why are some items restricted to members but not all? The answer lies in our status as a charitable organization. Bill Stolgitis, in the October 2001 Tieline provided the following background and insight:


Since 1968, when STC was reorganized as a 501(c)(3) charitable organization, STC has devoted a substantial part of its efforts to activities with charitable purposes. These activities—for example, publications, conferences, research, and scholarships—are described in STC's Articles of Incorporation and its bylaws.

In keeping with its charitable status, STC has made its services available to members and non-members alike. The IRS, however, recognizes that in the course of conducting the daily business of a charity, some activities essential to the charity's well-being will not, strictly speaking, be charitable in nature. The IRS allows these activities as long as they do not constitute a substantial part of the organization's activities.

For STC, such activities have included selling advertising (magazine and journal), renting the mailing list, and providing employment information (clearly not within the scope of STC's charitable purposes). These activities have always constituted a less substantial part of STC's total activities.

Restricting Services to Members Only

STC is fully engaged in many activities that are within the scope of its charitable purposes, and these services must be made available to members and non-members alike. As mentioned above, STC is also allowed to engage in activities that are not within the scope of its charitable purposes so long as these activities are "insubstantial" (a minor financial burden). These noncharitable services may be restricted to members only.

Why not provide all information free to nonmembers as we have in the past? The simple answer is that if STC provides all services for free, then there's no real reason to join STC. Without members, we cannot provide any services, including those intended to benefit the general public.

Chapters may, as well, choose to limit access to various services they provide, as long as doing so does not create an undue burden on the chapter finances. In addition, actions that contribute directly the STC’s charitable purpose (such as seminars or chapter meetings) may not be restricted to members only, although members may be given preferential pricing.

If you have any questions on this policy, contact your director-sponsor or the Society office.

STC Election Approaches

The annual STC election will be held in early 2003, and only those members who have paid their dues by the February 28, 2003, deadline are
eligible to vote. Ballots for the STC election will be mailed around March 10. The election closes April 15, 2003.

STC Specialty Gifts

STC Specialty Gifts are a great way to show appreciation to Society members or professional colleagues while spreading the STC name. Specialty gifts make terrific giveaways for chapter meeting, conferences, and special events.

Educational Opportunities

STC Telephone Seminars

Details about the following STC telephone seminars can be found on the STC web site at www.stc.org/seminars.asp:

Wednesday, January 8, 2003: Managing a Software User Interface Design Team
Presenters: Diane Feldman and Carla Merrill

Wednesday, January 15, 2003: Using Personas in the Development Process
Presenter: Whitney Quesenbery

All seminars take place from 1-2:30 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. Members can register online and view announcements for the seminars at www.stc.org/seminars.asp.

Because you pay only for the connection, not the number of people participating, telephone seminars are a cost-effective way to train groups of technical communicators.

Costs per site are detailed below.

An additional $10 will be charged for registrations received less than five business days before the seminar. Registration information for these seminars can be found in the November and December issues of Intercom, and on the STC web site.

Networking Opportunities

If you have a networking opportunity to share, please tell us! Go to www.stc-houston.org/contacteditor.htm.