Guest speaker today in Hirst’s tech editing class

Dear students — 460, 360, and of any other variety —

Today in my tech editing class — HSS 204 from 2:10 to 3:25 — we’ll be graced by a visit from Emily Huckabay, a technical writer/editor at ORNL.  She’ll be talking with us about the life of tech communicators at ORNL, professional preparation for careers in TC, and about a great opportunity: summer internships at ORNL.  Be there or be square!


Here’s Emily’s contact info:

Emily Huckabay, Technical Writer and Editor

Oak Ridge National Laboratory

1 Bethel Valley Road, Oak Ridge, TN 37831

Building 5700 | Room M206

Office: 865-241-5425 |



Get Published

Dear Students,

Yes, U 2 must strive to get published.

Here is a great opportunity.

–Dr. Hirst

Checklist from Center for Plain Language

Dear all students (both in English 360 and 460),

The Center for Plain Language and I have the same checklist.  Make it yours as well.

Plain Language: Keys to Success

What is plain language?

When you write in plain language, readers can understand what you write the first time they read it.

When you write in plain language, readers can find what they need, understand what they find, and act appropriately on that understanding, in the time and effort they are willing to spend.

Can legal and technical information be in plain language?

Yes. When you write in plain language, you are more likely to be accurate, precise, sufficient, and unambiguous. Plain language is especially important in legal and scientific documents to ensure they are both technically precise and legally sufficient while also being as clear as possible for the intended audience.

How can I be sure I am writing in plain language?

Use this Plain Language checklist to be sure you’ve used good techniques:


Does document meet the readers’ needs?

☐ Do I have a clear idea of who will read this document?

☐ Does the format match the readers’ needs?

☐ Does the content meet the readers’ needs?

☐ Does it answer the readers’ questions in the order they will ask them?

☐ Does it include only what the reader needs to know, omitting unneccessary information?


Is the message clear?

☐ Is the main message up front?

☐ Will the message be clear to my readers?

☐ Have I logically arranged each section?

☐ Is the document an appropriate length?

☐ Will my reader know what to do with the information?


Are the paragraphs effective?

☐ Do the paragraphs begin with the main idea?

☐ Are the paragraphs the right length?


Are the sentences effective?

☐ Are any sentences too long or too short?

☐ Have I used active voice most of the time?

☐ Have I used concise, well-constructed sentences?

☐ Have I kept the subject, verb, and object together?

☐ Have I used action verbs instead of nouns made out of verbs?

☐ Have I used a conversational tone and the reader’s words?

☐ Have I defined words when necessary?


Are the words effective?

☐ Does the word choice match the readers’ needs and skills?

☐ Did I use concrete and familiar words?

☐ Did I avoid jargon and other unclear words, such as concept and value words?

☐ Did I use pronouns to speak to the reader?

☐ Did I eliminate extra words and unnecessary information?

☐ Did I define all acronyms?


Have I used headings effectively?

☐ Does each page have at least one heading?

☐ Do the headings clearly describe the information that follows?

☐ Do the headings cover all the ideas in their section?

☐ Is the heading format consistent throughout the document?

☐ Are the headings close to the information that follows, so they don’t “float?”


Did I use lists and tables?

☐ Can I turn any information into a bulleted list?

☐ Did I consistently punctuate my lists?

☐ Do all the items in the list follow logically from the list introduction?

☐ Can I turn any information into an “if…then” table?


Have I checked the spelling and grammar?

☐ Have I checked the spelling with more than Spellcheck?

☐ Have I checked to be sure it’s all grammatically correct?

☐ Have I checked the punctuation?


Does it look easy to read?

☐ Have I used enough white space to make it look uncluttered and inviting?

☐ Have I used effective emphasis techniques – such as bold and colors NOT ALL CAPS?

☐ Have I added graphics where they will illustrate the message?

☐ Is the font at least 11 points?

☐ Is the text both upper and lower case?

☐ Is there enough contrast between font color and background color?

“Externship.” Career, anyone?

Dear Students, current and former,

So many things to be and do . . .

The manager who sent me the email below, in need of communication talent, asks whom I might have in mind.  I have ALL of you in mind.  Apply directly to Ms. Kabasta — let me know if you’d like a recommendation.

–Dr. Hirst

Dear Dr. Hirst,

My name is Karen Kabasta and I am the Technical Training Manager at ProNova Solutions.  You may have heard or read about us, or our parent company Provision, and the Provision Proton Therapy Center, located in Knoxville.  ProNova is dedicated to redefining the future of cancer treatment by delivering lower-cost, smaller, lighter and more energy-efficient proton therapy solutions without sacrificing today’s most important clinical capabilities.  To read more about us, go to or to

I have an opportunity for a student in need of a summer externship and am reaching out to you to see if you know of someone who may be interested.

The project is to learn our Proton Therapy System (operation as well as functionality) and, in particular, Cone Beam Computed Tomography (CBCT) Imaging and Image Registration software, and to develop the imaging section of our Clinical User Manual.  This is a great opportunity for a student who is interested in Medical/Technical Writing.  We will provide invaluable hands-on experience with CBCT and Proton Therapy so that the student can document how the imaging and image registration software works and is used by clinical staff.  We currently use a customized imaging software designed by MIM Software Inc. (Cleveland, OH) for the imaging and image registration.  While we have a User Manual, the imaging section, particularly the use of the MIM software tools, is not well developed.

The student will come away from the project with a very practical technical writing experience in the medical field.  Not only will the student get hands-on experience with CBCT and Proton Therapy, documenting functionality and use, the student will also end up with technical writing samples of “published” (internally with ProNova) work.  Additionally, the student will gain experience using MadCap Flare authoring software.

Please let me know if you have anyone in mind for this position.  I hope to post the opening in the next week or two before summer break.

Thank you for your time,

Karen Kabasta

Karen L. Kabasta
Technical Training Manager
Phone: 865-862-4051 / Cell: 423-231-6838

ProNova Solutions, LLC
330 Pellissippi Place
Maryville, TN 37804

Locutus of Borg

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Dear students,

Resistance is futile.  You will be assimilated.


But there’s a reason the Borg named their modified Captain Picard “Locutus.”

A few of you have asked me about the Elocutionary Movement I referenced in class, and for examples of the more extensive sentence markup, for performance by the human voice, that I talked about during our unit (in English 460) on Punctuation.

I could supply scores of example books treating this subject; During the late 18th and pretty much throughout the 19th century, the elocutionary movement in America and England, and elsewhere in Europe, was a massive phenomenon.  People were enthralled with mastery of the human voice. Eloquent statesmen, lawyers, actors, and preachers were rock stars; people flocked to hear them.  Don’t judge the magnificence of the trained human voice by what you are hearing today in, for example, political discourse.

Let me just supply Alexander Bell’s excellent Elocutionary Manual for now (you’re not going to look at scores of books).  Check out the Voice Notation here.  Do some performance of your own!  This makes for a great party game, btw.  ; )

For those of you wanting to read more comprehensive philosophy on this topic, I recommend reading what was perhaps the most famous elocutionary treatise produced in America: The Philosophy of the Human Voice, by Dr. James Rush.

Have fun!