All posts by rsmith167

Post #7: The Importance of First Impressions

First Impressions

The adversity to being on the receiving end of new technical communication may lie in the quality of the technical communication produced. It takes viewers only 1/20th of a second to judge whether or not a website is worthy of their viewership (site). The first impressions formed when end users initially see the product helps determine whether they will even bother to read it. Even if the document is a set of instructions, they will consider it a waste of their time if they are against the rhetorical situation the creator had in mind and if the design choices are poor.


Rhetorical Situation

A poor first impression will be formed by the reader if he does not approve of the purpose of the content or is not an intended audience member.  A poor purpose could be “to inform the user on how to properly sweep a floor”; someone who buys a broom will probably not read any instructions that come with it because they feel that the instructions are unnecessary. A user might think he already has enough background information to begin using a product or can easily figure it out, and may not consider himself an intended audience for the instructions.


Design Choices

The visual mode is probably the most important mode to consider when discussing the end user’s potential first impression of verbal instructions because they will view the way the document is put together before they begin reading it. It is important to not overuse emphasis and contrast, and to optimally use organization, alignment, and proximity. Using emphasis, by highlighting or bolding words, by listing and bulleting items, etc., is helpful to catch the reader’s eye, but overdoing it will distract and confuse them. This goes for using contrast, which emphasizes through juxtaposing size and color, as well. Organization, alignment, and proximity affect how comfortable the reader feels looking at the document. If there is no obviously planned out arrangement of the paragraphs, sentences and pictures, the reader will feel uncomfortable having to create their own path to follow.

Take for example this still from a website.


My first impression of the webpage is very poor and I feel I could probably infect my laptop with a virus if I clicked on anything. The design choices of the webpage easily carry over to what should not be done for visual and design aspects of instructional material.


  1. Emphasis: The emphasis is mostly placed on titles, such as “Atwater Politics” and “Weblog”, however, the reader is unable to make a connection to its importance and why it received this level of significance.
  2. Contrast: The color contrast of blue text against a white screen strains the eyes.
  3. Organization: There is very little organization.  Instead of being able to follow a conventional path, such as heading -> paragraph, the viewer must create their own path, meaninglessly going from unrelated box to unrelated box.
  4. Alignment: The rectangular boxes, such as the ones labeled “Democratic News” and “Intelligence” are neatly aligned with each other; however, each box contains wildly different content and styles.
  5. Proximity: There is simply too much on the page. There are too many pictures too close together, the text is small and scrunched, and each rectangular box of information is cramped between two others.

set of instructions


Here is an example of well down technical communication.

  1. Dual coding is used to make sure the end user can easily understand what is happening in each step.
  2. The visual content is grouped together, not spread out all over the document, and all of the pictures that relate to a single step are aligned neatly under the text for that step. This organizational style shows the relationship between the text and the pictures, allowing the consumer to make more connection quicker about what needs to be done and how.
  3. The individual steps are emphasized by a larger font for the numbers and through the use of green font. These two markers clearly indicate where each steps begins.
  4. The contrast between the sizes of the steps numbers, the text of the instructions, and the helper text labeling objects clearly shows what each objective, in what order they should be accomplished, and what information is needed to accomplish the text.


These ease of use of this document can be readily ascertained by the end used and will encourage him to consider reading the instructions. With simple, easy to use, instructions that provide the right amount of information, technical communicators can encourage to properly use their products.


Arola, Kristin; Sheppard, Jennifer; and Ball, Cheryl. Writer/Designer: A Guide to Making Multimodal Projects. (2014). Bedford/St. Martin. 6, 20- 37.

Johnson-Eilola, Johndan and Selber, Stuarta. Solving Problems in Technical Communication. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. 388-391.

Blog Post #5- Researcher

I am interested in the role of researcher as I have experience in both gathering data and information and presenting it. I have successfully* completed research as an intern at State Farm and I have presented on what I learned to an audience of my peers.  I have also been a university research assistant at GSU since my freshman year. As a University Assistant, I work in teams of two and six handling both quantitative and qualitative data, and we are on track to present our research at GSURC (Georgia State Undergraduate Research Conference) in the spring.

In regards to availability, I check my email and phone messages often and can easily commute to campus for a scheduled meeting. I have never been late to our class (punctuality), I am a second year Junior (focused), and I am a committed to our successful completion of this project that will result no only in a A but in deliverables that are deemed exemplary by the not-for-profits we will work with.

Rwanda Smith

*I received an A on my senior project, positive reviews from my mentor, and was offered a job by the agent at State Farm (in Virginia) where I worked until I moved to Georgia to attend GSU.

Blog Post #4: Why does Technical Communication Indoctrination have to Start with Kids?


One of the great opportunities afforded to college students is the access to non-Romance foreign languages. This semester I am taking Hebrew 1001, and since it is not a Romance language, the words, the letters, and their sounds are completely foreign to me. So how do I, an adult with a working knowledge of one language, change my entire writing and grammar system so that I can succeed in this new environment? I play games. In class, we sing songs and take turns asking each other questions in broken Hebrew that a Jewish third grader could word better. At home, I play a game practicing the letters and sounds so that they become familiar to me. I am essentially trying to force myself to learn a language the why a child would: through repetition, through trial and error, and though social exchange. My professor encourages us to try our best, even if we may be wrong, then we correct ourselves so that we can understand what to do correctly the next time.

So what does my playing little kid games to learn Hebrew have to do with technical communication and the abilities of those in a workplace to efficiently use data and information? Just as it would have been easier for me to learn Hebrew as a kid, we, as technical communicators, need to teach school children how to increase their literacy at a young age so that they learn to think critically in a structured but lenient environment.

An Efficient Work Place Starts in Grade School

To begin helping the current work force to improve their literacy, the exact needs of the employees need to be understood and addressed. For example, if employees don’t understand how to use a company website or how to read a chart, this specific issue needs to be known by interviewing the employees and then teaching them how to accomplish these task. However, the easiest way make sure that employees, whether they work at a desk or in a factory, have access to and the ability to interpret “information to ensure safety and productivity, to enable effective interaction, to increase job performance, and so on” is to begin instilling the abilities in the work force as children.

As we read in “Footprints in the Digital Age,” the question of whether you can be Googled well does not just rest on what images go on your Facebook, but how well you can use the internet and social media to network and encourage your audience to not just be passive viewers but respond and take actions themselves. Richardson wrote how we, the adults, are “failing to empower kids” thereby forcing them to learn this new form of literacy on their own. He wrote that we need to help children understand how to properly create and manage content, the extension of this, of course, being that children begin to understand how to interpret and manage content created by someone else. The skill that is ultimately being learned here is how to think critically.

Thinking Critically-Children


     In research done by Dr. Lewis, a Professor at Longwood University and a former teacher, she determined that students who had taken the  2007 and 2008 math SOLs had done poorly because they lacked critical thinking skills. The students knew how to do the math procedurally but misunderstood broader concepts:

“The best example of this is a problem about two shops selling T-shirts at different prices—the difference was 50 cents—the problem asks the student to determine the difference in total price if you buy four shirts. Twenty-five percent of sixth grade students chose 50 cents, instead of two dollars.”


Here, the students knew how to find the difference in the price between two shirts, but did not think about what the original question was actually asking. Teaching students to think critically forces them to become active participants in their own education and shows them how to become problem solvers creating a generation of employees with higher literacy; because even if they do not know the answer they can begin to look for it.

Thinking Critically-Adults

It is important to note that this study came from a professor who no longer teaches students who take the SOLs. This means a third party examined these results, not the schools system, not the teachers, not the parents, and not the students themselves. The “Troubling Stats on Adult Literacy” article blamed adults and higher education for the inability of adults to have high levels of literacy, but that is because no one has bothered to try to get to the very root of the problem. Teachers spend all year trying to teach the SOLs, but once the test are finished and the scores disseminated, the students do not get to go over the questions and answers. They do not get the chance to understand what they did wrong and learn from their mistakes. Because the teachers are forced to not teach critically thinking but to force students to memorize and regurgitate for standardized tests, students are not equipped with this necessary skills and what little they do learn on their own wanes over the years from lack of use. As Clements  in “The Effective Use of Computers with Young Children” wrote, technology and drills (SOL based learning) should be used to introduce information to children, not used as a crutch. Once the basic information is known, children should be encouraged to learn, to discuss, and to create.


Sources Cited:

Clements, D.  (1999). “The Effective Use of Computers with Young Children.” Retireved September 19, 2014

Longwood University. (2014) “Research by Longwood professor aims to help teachers better understand SOL mathematics scores.” Retireved September 19, 2014

Richardson, W. 2008. “Footprints in the Digital Age.” Retrieved September 19, 2014                                                                                -Age.aspx

Rogers, Megan. (2013). Troubling stats on adult literacy. Inside Higher Ed.

Blog Post #3: To Be or Not to Be Creative

Although I am not sure that a creative resume would be the most advantageous, given my career plans, I like the distinctive folded paper and infographic options for alternative resume styles. As I become an actuary and enter the risk field, my professional presence is mostly influenced through networking and the information contained within my resume ( Resume Guidelines: Actuarial Science). Of this information, the most crucial part is what actuarial exams I have passed or plan to sit for, the skills and knowledge I have gained through internships or previous jobs, and leadership roles in relevant activities. I think an infographic or origami resume could highlight this information quickly while being creative, easy to read, and concise.

I think a creative resume would certainly set me apart from the competition, but only to make me more memorable not necessarily give me a leg-up on the competition; I will have a better chance of securing the job by passing more exams. However, an infographic could easily draw the employer’s eye to this score and other important information by giving the information its own box and emphasizing it with color and pictograms. Infographics seem to be the closest to a simple black and white, word processed resume, as would be more appropriate in a serious, data and information oriented environment than a word cloud or movie poster. The infographic shown below is, in my opinion, a good example because it is colorful but has a unifying theme (of pink) and is easy on the eyes. The sheet is not crowed and it is easy to identify the different sections such as skills or contact information.


A creatively folded resume is also acceptable because it can simply be your regular word processed resume folded in a clever way


or your resume can be sectioned off and folded so that the shape highlights different important aspects of your credentials.


The first origami resume, which is folded like an envelope, would be the best option because, like a business card, it can be carried around and given to an interested party without being cumbersome the way a piece of paper or exceptionally 3-D folded resume would be.


Penn State Smeal College of Business. Resume Guidelines: Actuarial Science. Retrieve September 14, 2014.

Blog Post #1: The Trade-Off of Sociability

Focusing on workplace blogs as a medium for employers and employees, as opposed to a social networking tool to open up and expand a dialogue between the company and the public, I disagree with “Dingra, the creator of WATConsult” who “[was convinced that blogs will be a standard corporate communication tool just like a website and email address” (Strother, Judith A., Zohra Fazal, and Melinda Millsap, 2009). Blogs will continue, for the time being, to remain secondary to forms of communication that allow the initiator to reach the recipient when necessary, to choose the specific parties to be engaged, and to do so quickly, such as through emails, phone, and face to face conversation. Intra-company blogs will not become a forum for employees to speak freely, if in an unprofessional manner, to vent their frustrations or blatant tell their superiors what they are doing wrong, like the general public has the tendency to do. A blog run by the corporation for intra-corporation use will act more like a bulletin board compared to the freedom consumers or the public has on an external blogs (Strother, Judith A., Zohra Fazal, and Melinda Millsap, 2009).

Blogs may serve as a forum to discuss possible changes, possible project to begin, or to disseminate information amongst a large group of employees, but unless each department or singular focus group has their own personal blog on which to add, exchange, and comment upon ideas freely, a corporate blog will not be as effective and efficient as forms of communication already in practice. Intra-companies’ blogs take too long to update as opposed to a quick text, email, or memo. Blogs are too public, the interactivity works against personal messages ( not those that should belong in an instant messaging session, but perhaps a directive given to an employee that is too be kept separate from the group until a certain level of completion). The company has more control over an internal blog than they would with an external one, but the control would continue to occur retrospectively should, as ABLOUNT4 pointed out (BLOG POST #1: WORKPLACE SOCIAL MEDIA AND BLOGGING ARE BENEFICIAL IN 2014), an employee speak ill of the company or another worker. This employee would suffer the consequences but not until it was pointed out to an administrator, perhaps after influencing others, something that may not happen when responding to email that are sent and viewed directly and immediately by coworkers and bosses

A blog is a form of social networking that encourages the participants to get involved by reading content relevant or necessary to them, commenting upon it, and sharing it. Blogs used internally will boost moral by providing more avenues for the employees to become involved in the company socially, superiors can received input from employees, and information, such as a the time and location of a company picnic can be viewed by everyone. However, blogs are less functional as way to disseminate information because those who use blogs the most expect to reap these social benefits, not to gain or add actual information. Blogs are also limited in their effectiveness by the number of employees who actively read, comment, and post useful entries.


Jackson, A; Yates, J.; Orlikowski, W., “Corporate Blogging: Building community through persistent digital talk,” System Sciences, 2007. HICSS 2007. 40th Annual Hawaii International Conference on , vol., no., pp.80,80, Jan. 2007

Strother, Judith A., Zohra Fazal, and Melinda Millsap. (2009). Legal and ethical issues of the corporate blogosphere. IEEE Transactions On Professional Communication, 52(3), 243-253