Words Are Important

Back in the 80s, when I worked in radio, I remember very vividly the words of Andre Codrescu, a writer and commentator on NPR, the U.S. national public radio network. Codrescu came to the U.S. escaping Nicolae Ceausescu’s Romania. In one commentary, he¬†was recalling some event involving either protest, writing, or both. I no longer recall what the event was, but I remember this sentence:

In Romania, words have power. You can go to jail for them.

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The Importance of Labels

Those who work in certain regulated industries, most especially the pharmaceutical field, know that labels are important. In fact, companies have people who do nothing but manage the labels of their products, and the language on them. This is because a change of even the positioning of a comma can require going through a regulatory re-approval process.

While this might seem like a lot of bureaucratic hassle to some, the reasoning is that a minor typographical error on a label can cost lives.

There are many aspects of life other than technical communication where this is true, and I have recently had the sad occasion to experience one case.

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An Open Letter to my STC Colleagues

Update: Most of you will already know that I was re-elected with a nice proportion of the vote. Unfortunately, participation in this year’s STC election was slightly down from last year, at 14.98%. I had really hoped that more STC members would vote.

 

Dear Fellow STC Members,

As you know, voting began today for the STC Elections. Most of you know I’m a candidate for re-election, but this is not about my candidacy. This is a plea for you to cast your vote – for whomever you think is the best candidate.

Last year, only 16% of our members voted. This is more or less average for association elections these days, but I wonder if we can’t do better.

I remember before I became involved in Society governance, that the elections seemed distant to me. I didn’t recognize candidates’ names, they were folks across the ocean. I knew little or nothing about society affairs, and it all seemed unimportant to me. Then I began reading the candidates’ statements. Honestly, that only brought society matters a little closer to me. There was no grand ephiphany. But just reading the candidates’ positions on issues that maybe I only partly understood helped me to get a sense of who they were. And once I did that, I started to make choices about which of them I wanted to see on the board of directors.

Today, STC faces many difficult issues, and though we have made progress, we are not out of the woods. Fortunately, all the candidates are dedicated people who care deeply about STC and its future. Each has a slightly different vision of what that might be and how to get there – and your selection will determine the course that STC takes in the next year or two.

I urge you, then, to please take the time to read all the candidate statements, make your own independent choice, and cast your ballot. If we can raise the number of voters, we automatically raise the strength of the mandate our winning candidates receive.

Like any candidate, I hope folks vote for me – but I prefer for you to vote for another candidate than to abstain from voting. Please don’t wait – take some time to learn about each of us, and add your voice. You, as an STC member, will be the beneficiary.