Talking About Space

Today I’ll be giving a talk in Huntsville, Alabama titled “Communicating About Space: Pitfalls and Priorities.” This will be an interesting experiment for me and my audience, as this will be a joint meeting of HAL5, the local chapter of the National Space Society (NSS) and the local chapter of the Society for Technical Communication (STC). Oddly enough, I made the short list for crossover presenters. I won’t be giving spoilers here, but I will provide a brief preview about why I chose this particular topic.

For the last 20 years or so, I’ve dedicated myself to being a communicator for the business of putting human beings into space. It seemed a nifty way to combine my primary skill (writing) with my primary interest (space).

This is hardly a new topic for me. My master’s thesis focused on applying technical writing skills to technical advocacy. Mind you, there are multiple aspects to those skills: research, editing, visual design, and localization if I were foolhardy enough to communicate about space to a non-English-speaking audience. However, after getting a bit of feedback and having a lot of ideas of my own to cull through, in the end I decided to focus on word choices and meeting audience needs.

The “pitfalls” in my talk will of course be a sampling of some of the ways space-related communication can be done less than elegantly. “Priorities” will be those things a space writer should take into account, especially when reaching an external (non-space or non-specialist) audience, starting first with meeting audience expectations.

What happens around that framework is anyone’s guess, but I hope to get a little audience input as I go along so I’m not the only one talking. Adventure awaits!

About Bart Leahy

Freelance Technical Writer, Science Cheerleader Event & Membership Director, and an all-around nice guy. Here to help.
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