STC Houston - Dateline Houston - March/April 2006

Vol 45, Issue 4

March/April 2006

STC Houston - Dateline Houston - March/April 2006

Issue Home Page

Printer-friendly version

STC Houston - Dateline Houston - March/April 2006

From the President

When the President Gets Writer’s Block

Cindy Pao, Information Developer, BMC Software, Inc.

I was having a really hard time coming up with a topic for my column this time. Then I started thinking about the quotations that people sometimes include in their e-mail signatures. Some people have inspirational quotations, while others have humor. Some have no tagline at all.

Why do we pick what we do? Let’s see if we can figure it out!

This Quotation Says a Lot

“The next best thing to being clever is being able to quote someone who is” (Mary Pettibone Poole).

My Very First Tagline

I think that the very first tagline I had in my e-mail said “De do do do de da da da is all I want to say to you” from the song of the same name by the Police. I thought this tagline was rather irreverent, and that people would take notice of it. Nothing profound, mind you, just funny.

Later Taglines

After that, I discovered that you could look up quotations on the Internet, so I looked for inspiring words spoken by women:

“Independence I have long considered the grand blessing of life, the basis of every virtue”(Mary Wollstonecraft).

“I would rather die a meaningful death than to live a meaningless life” (Corazon Aquino).

“Although they are only breath, words which I command are immortal” (Sappho).

“You can stand tall without standing on someone. You can be a victor without having victims” (Harriet Woods, Missouri state senator).

“I believe that in our constant search for security we can never gain any peace of mind until we secure our own soul” (Margaret Chase Smith).

I chose some of these quotations because they are inspiring. Others are beautiful combinations of words. I find myself wondering how the speaker came to think the thought and how she chose the words. Did she intend for her words to be used by others, or was she responding to a question on the spur of a moment?

Women also say funny things. Here are a couple of my favorites:

“I think housework is far more tiring and frightening than hunting is, no comparison, and yet after hunting we had eggs for tea and were made to rest for hours, but after housework people expect one to go on just as if nothing special had happened” (Nancy Mitford).

“You have to run ahead of people sometimes and try to kill them” (Melissa Zegans, on catching cabs in Manhattan).

“I am just too much” (Bette Davis).

Men Are Funny, Too

George Carlin and Al Franken are funny guys. Some of the humor they put in their books seems a good fit for other writers:

“Do you ever open the dictionary right to the page you want? Doesn't that feel good?” (from Napalm & Silly Putty by George Carlin, 2001).

“But that’s what an artist owes his audience. This book is, in a sense, my gift to you the reader. It is a gift of my talent and my dedication. It is a solemn pact, as it were, between you and me. You keep your side of the bargain by buying the book. I keep my side by investing every fiber of my being into the work” (Al Franken).

Someone Else’s Tagline

One of my friends at BMC Software had this tagline for a time:

“Be kind, for everyone you know is facing a great battle” (Philo of Alexandria).

These seem good words by which to live. They just kind of remind us that we’re here together, and we should be good to one another.

The Final Two

The final two quotations, somehow, don’t have categories. To be sure, the quotation by Gertrude Stein could be included with the preceding ones, but I didn’t want it there.

“What is the answer?” she asked, and when no answer came, she laughed and said: “Then, what is the question?” (Gertrude Stein's last words).

Think about Ms. Stein uttering these words as her last. Do you think they mean anything? Or do you think they are just the last words of a dying person? Maybe, just maybe, they refer to the meaning of life.

Last is Albert Einstein:

“A hundred times every day I remind myself that my inner and outer life are based on the labors of other men, living and dead, and that I must exert myself in order to give in the same measure as I have received and am still receiving” (Albert Einstein in Ideas and Opinions, 1954).

How humble of him to attribute his success to the work of others! Yes, certainly, he used the work done by others, but he did so much himself! Would that we were all this gracious; maybe we wouldn’t have to engage in so many ethics discussions. I don’t know for sure, but I’d like to think so.

Keep in Touch

I’m here for you! Send me e-mail at

Copyright © 2006 Houston Chapter, Society for Technical Communication
P.O. Box 42051, Houston, TX 77242-2051 | 713-706-3434