ATA Presents at Annual Conference of the Society for Technical Communication

By David Rumsey

Well over 600 technical writers, authors, illustrators, project managers, and software developers gathered in Anaheim, California, for Summit ’16, the 63rd Annual Conference of the Society for Technical Communication (STC). STC represents over 6,500 technical writers and related professionals and provides networking and continuing education opportunities in a wide range of technical fields.

The language industry was well represented among the exhibitors, with several language service providers and software vendors specializing in translation management. The conference had over 80 educational sessions in seven unique tracks, including three sessions on translation: one from a technical writer, one from a software developer selling translation project management software, and my own session, entitled “Internationalized Texts: Writing for Translation and Globalization.”

The main message of my presentation: in a global world, having documentation in multiple languages is key to many companies’ success. Many technical writers are given the task of handling the translation of documentation, and potentially even coordinating the localization of software. Few of them see this as part of their regular job description, and fewer have any real language background or education in the translation field. As a result, their thirst for knowledge is deep.

I addressed the steps that technical writers should take to ensure an accurate and successful translation. Topics included:

  • Clarifying terminology (e.g., translation, transcreation, localization, internationalization, etc.).
  • Understanding the pros and cons and differences between machine translation and computer-assisted translation tools.
  • Recommendations for ensuring an effective translation project, including vendor selection, scheduling, suggested reference material, and handling third party reviewers.
  • Tips for avoiding English writing conventions to make the translation process easier for the translator (e.g., no noun-strings!).

The response to the session was quite humbling. As fellow writers and “word people,” the technical communicators in the room could identify clearly with the challenges that translators face. Many had detailed questions about the process of translating and project management, including:

  • How do you find a good third party reviewer?
  • What kind of information should be in a glossary?
  • How do you keep the sentences simple and still provide all the necessary information?

They were eager for any additional references and advice I could give, and they quickly snapped up all the brochures and pens from ATA that I provided. Another positive result of the session was that I was asked to submit a webinar proposal for STC based on the presentation.

The idea to attend the STC conference was a part of the ATA Public Relations Committee’s strategy to focus on the end users of translation—those people who are actually involved in coordinating the translation. Based on their response, this targeted strategy appears to be paying off.

If you would like to learn more about STC, please visit

About the Author

David Rumsey is the president of ATA. A long-time veteran of the language industry since 1990, he has been a project manager, localization engineer, and a freelance translator and editor focusing on Scandinavian and German technical documentation.





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