Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Society for Technical Communication (STC)

By Barbara Jungwirth

STC is the oldest existing professional organization for people involved in the various aspects of technical communication, from graphic artists providing technical sketches, to writer/programmers creating online help content, to translators transferring that content into other languages. Other professions represented in the organization include indexers, information architects, developers of e-learning courses, technical communications teachers, and many more. As the STC states on their website, "What all technical communicators have in common is a user-centered approach to providing the right information, in the right way, at the right time to make someone's life easier and more productive."

The organization is divided into local chapters, including a number in other countries and includes "Special Interest Groups (SIGs)", similar to ATA Divisions. Relevant to translators is the International Technical Communication SIG (ITC SIG), which, according to the SIG website, is "focused on localization, translation, and cross cultural communication for technology." The SIG's website is essentially a blog that includes a "related organizations" tab with announcements/information on international conferences and organizations such as the Globalization and Localization Association (GALA). ATA events could be included here.

Since many members of STC are involved in producing the source text we then translate, it would be helpful for us to know more about the technical writing process and for the technical writers to understand the translation process better. This includes learning about the tools used by these respective communities - RoboHelp, AuthorIt and similar programs on the technical writing end and Trados, Wordfast and similar programs on the translation end. If both groups have a better understanding of the opportunities and limitations of the tools and processes on each end, we can work together much more effectively.

STC organizes an annual conference, called the Technical Communication Summit. The 2011 Summit will take place May 15-18 in Sacramento, California. (Learn more, here: The Summit includes international communications topics, including a workshop on "Writing With Localization in Mind" this year. The ITC SIG also usually organizes a set of mini presentations, called a "Progression". In addition, STC offers webinars during the course of the year. One webinar topic of interest to translators was a pilot project using translation memory tools to write the source text. This helps ensure consistency within the text, which then also helps translators leverage their translation memories.

It may be helpful for ATA to introduce similar topics -- e.g., how to link technical writing tools that support multilingual text to translation tools; how to convince our end clients to plan for collaboration with the source text writers earlier in the process; what technical writers expect from translators -- to ATA webinars or the ATA Annual Conference. In any case, closer collaboration between ATA's Science and Technology Division and STC's International Communication Special Interest Group can only benefit both groups involved in producing multi-lingual technical texts.

Barbara Jungwirth provides German-English technical translation services through her company, reliable translations. Before becoming a translator, she wrote software documentation. She is a member of both ATA and STC, presented on preparing source text for translation for the STC SIG at the 2009 Summit and contributes to STC's journal Technical Communication. She also writes a blog about technical translation, On Language and Translation (


  1. Is any one from the SciTech division planning to attend the STC Summit?

  2. @ Stephanie, I am. It's in Sacramento this year, which is close to me. I suppose you want a write up for the blog. :)
    @ Barbara, Thank you for this great summary. I just joined STC this year, after putting it off for a while. The combination of attending the Summit at member rate and useful web-based training courses they offer prompted me to join and dive in to activities. I'll let you know in a couple of years how much I get from it! It's off to a good start, for sure.
    On the larger picture, in terms of collaboration, I think there has been some in the past. I should do a little rooting around to find out what and by whom and whether ATA is interested in me investigating while at the summit. If you'll be there Barbara, let's meet up.

  3. Thanks, Karen. I entered a raffle for a free ticket to the Summit. I'll let you know if I win (and therefore come to Sacramento). Otherwise, I won't be there.

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