IDL SIG Editor’s Column (and Table of Contents)

IDL SIG Manager’s Column

By Maralee Sautter

Hello, IDL SIG members!

In the northern hemisphere, colorful leaves are falling and swirling in an earthbound course, signaling the advent of autumn. The days are becoming shorter and scents of pumpkin spice are adrift in coffee shops and neighborhood bakeries. While you may not have the same weather as I do here in the Pacific Northwest, I am relieved that cooler weather is here: the record-breaking heat and wildfires experienced over the summer are gone. 

While the crazy weather has affected all of us—from coast to coast—nothing has stopped the IDL team from a flurry of activity. We have been busy planning, preparing, and delivering great programs and virtual activities to benefit you, our IDL members!

IDL announcements are back

The antiquated Mailman system went into retirement last year. Happily, in late August, we began sending IDL announcements using Mailchimp. To be sure you receive these mailings, add to your address book. If you are not receiving mail from the SIG via Mailchimp, check your spam folder. Students and new techcomm professionals may receive additional mailings from the Student Outreach Coordinator.

Join our discussion forum 

Are you interested in sharing news, asking questions, or discussing ideas with fellow IDL SIG members? We have a solution: Join our IDL SIG Slack channel and post your ideas or questions. It’s easy! First join the STC Slack channel. After joining, select #sig-instructional-design. Read instructions for joining Slack on our website.

A peek around the corner

Joint program with STC Chicago & the IDL SIG  

Get that Interview! How to Beat the Dreaded Applicant Tracking System webinar with Jack Molisani Wednesday, October 13 at 1 PM EDT. Click here for details

Two-hour Workshop 

Zoom-proof Your Presentations with Leah Guren, Saturday, November 6, 2021 at 12 –2 pm EDT. Read more details on our Facebook page. “Like” us while you’re there!

Virtual Open House – Mid-November

The IDL SIG Virtual Open House is open to IDL members and would-be members to learn about our benefits and volunteer opportunities. We showcase the volunteers who make the IDL SIG run as smooth as maple syrup. 


The Nightmare Before Christmas. It’s a contest! Practitioners, bring us your worst technical communication disasters and our students will judge your article, up to 500 words. There are prizes for the most terrifying disasters and winners will be published in our Q4 newsletter. Names can be changed to protect the innocent.

Watch social media outlets, announcements, and our website for more details about this fun social event.

First Fridays at 5

First Fridays at 5 is a virtual social event for students and the Instructional Design & Learning (IDL) Special Interest Group (SIG) members happening the first Friday of the month. You don’t have to be a member to join. Our students always have something brewing. For past events, check out our student page.

Membership Drive begins

Our Membership chair, volunteer Lori Meyer, has a great article elsewhere in this newsletter. One thing is worth repeating: Remember to sign up for IDL SIG on the join or renewal form.
Note: Gold membership includes all SIGs and COIs and does not require signup.

IDL SIG Treasurer Report – 2021 Q3

by Jamye Sagan, IDL SIG Treasurer

How much money do we have?

As of September 27, 2021, we have $789.67 in our account – $273.34 from community funding and $516.33 in our vested funds. 


Since Q2, we have incurred the following expenses: two speaker honoraria for our July 14 and September 15 webinars. We even made almost $16 profit through non-SIG-member webinar registrations. 


In the next couple of months, we will submit our reimbursement requests for our Zoom and Survey Monkey subscriptions. We use Zoom to conduct our educational webinars, leadership meetings, and virtual social events. We use Survey Monkey for our demographic surveys and elections. We also plan to purchase some small raffle prizes for our upcoming virtual social events – our annual Virtual Open House sometime in November, and our First Friday at Five event in December. 


Budget Time! Where do we get our funds?

We are about to begin working on our 2022 IDL SIG budget. Every year, all STC Chapters and Communities of Practice submit their budgets to the STC head office. From there, the budget committee will review all budgets and approve them. 


Our primary source of income comes from community funding and vested funds. Community funding are funds we receive from the STC office, based on the number of SIG members as of August 31. We receive a certain dollar amount per member. Since these funds do not carry over from year to year, we must use them or forfeit them. We plan our budget so that we spend all of our designated funding.


Vested funds are funds we have earned through the years. These funds can carry over year after year.


As we review our budget, we constantly check where we can save costs and, most importantly, see how we can use our funds to best benefit you – our members. 


We’d like to hear from you!

If you have any questions about SIG finances, please email me at

Announcing the Tech Comm Nightmares Before Christmas Contest!

image © Disney, Touchstone Pictures

By Mellissa Ruryk

Cue the spooky music…

STC’s 2020 Most Improved Community—Instructional Design & Learning SIG—is holding a fun social event and contest open to all STC members.

Contest details

To enter the contest, write a short (500 word) description of your worst nightmare connected to your work as a technical communicator, that actually happened to you. Names can be changed to protect the guilty!

Were you teaching a class with your fly open? Burst a button on your blouse revealing your bra? Wardrobe malfunctions aside, how about missing a typo in the company name on the front page of the new brochure, printed on the most expensive paper ever?  How about printing 100s of a new SOP with the approving VP’s name misspelled?

Practitioners, bring us your worst technical communication disasters. Your pain can be your gain! STC student members will judge the entries and award 3 prizes. 

Send your contest entries to before November 30, 2021.


Judging criteria will be along the lines of:

  • How many people saw the mistake?
  • What was the dollar cost and/or number of hours to recover from the nightmare?
  • How long did you work on the project without clueing into the nightmare?

Announcing the Winners

On Fri, December 3, 2021, from 5:00 PM – 6:00 PM EST at the IDL’s First Fridays @ Five Zoom social, we’ll announce the winners and ask the authors to read their entry to us. All entries will also be published in the Q4 issue of our award-winning IDeaL newsletter (publication date: December 31, 2021).

Free Registration for all!

Please register for the event so we can stay in touch with you and send you friendly reminders.

Register to attend even if you are not submitting a nightmare. We need an audience!

It’s free to attend for all:

  • Students
  • academics
  • practitioners
  • STC members
  • STC non-members
  • job seekers
  • volunteers
  • future volunteers
  • curious explorers


The IDL SIG has a couple of corporate sponsors who are generously underwriting the prizes:

  • First prize is a $35 Amazon gift card, courtesy of TEK-Right Consulting Ltd.
  • Second prize is a $25 Amazon gift card, courtesy of Imperial Productions
  • Third prize is a $15 Amazon gift card, also courtesy of Imperial Productions

And, yes: if you’ve messed up more than once—go ahead and submit more than one NIGHTMARE!

Featured: Create Accessible Social Media Posts

by Jannetta Lamourt

“Disability is part of the human experience and one of the variables that contribute to the rich diversity of our nation.  Disability is not a static condition—people can experience a disability from birth or develop a disability due to genetics, aging, or trauma.  Disability does not discriminate—anyone can acquire a disability, at any time.” (U.S. Dept of Education)

Accessibility = able to access

We understand the need for wheelchair ramps, Braille signs, and crosswalk beacons in a physical world. But why does accessibility matter in social media?  

Over 40 million people in America report some level of disability in their daily lives.  Social media as a tool for connection is vital for those who cannot leave home or who find the outside world challenging to navigate or to connect to, socially.  Accessibility design in social media means handling the text and images in an “inclusive design” to assist as many people as possible. Luckily, anything you add or change to make text or images accessible makes it accessible for all viewers. 

Whether for personal or business needs, follow these tips for writing and displaying social media content. You’ll stand out in a world of websites that ignore accessibility:

1. Plain Language Required 

Have you heard of the Plain Writing Act of 2010? It requires government agencies to use precise language in documents presented to the public following the Federal Plain Language Guidelines. The people reading the documents must be able to:

  • Find what they need
  • Understand what they find
  • Use what they find to meet their needs (Source: FPLG)

The goal for these guidelines applies to any document or social media message—clear, correct, and understandable. 

2. Closed Captions

While closed captioning is common on television, much of the current social media content lacks audio cues or an enriched description of sounds and background music.  Subtitles only provide the text for the spoken words and, while helpful, do not ignite the imagination of those people with hearing impairments.

3. Text Descriptions for Images

Consider an image of a red ball in a blog post.  Alternative Text or “Alt Text” is a brief written description for online images. It completes the picture for the sight disabled beyond the facts. A child with a ball tells the listener the basics, but alt text describes the child “as a toddler holding a large red ball in a blue snowsuit.”  Alt text also enhances your search engine optimization (SEO) and displays when an image file cannot load for technical or security reasons.  

4. Strong Color Contrast 

Choose colors for backgrounds and text with a significant difference in light and dark tones. Additionally, colorful text against a dark background is tricky for people with sight-impairments to read accurately.  Best practice requires a 4.5:1 color contrast ratio.  Online tools such as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) Color Contrast Checker help the writer or designer check the color balance and text readability on the webpage. 

5. Camel Case for Hashtags

Hashtags present a different issue for screen readers. Using the camel case method, which uses capital letters to distinguish between words, benefits many. Which is easier to understand, #HeLovesFlyingSquirrels or @helovesflyingsquirrels?

6. Descriptive Calls-To-Action (CTA)

As a technical or UX writer, call to action text tells the reader what action to take to fulfill the primary goal, such as, Buy now or Learn more on buttons embedded into a webpage or social post. Without a concise and direct CTA, a catalog page with many links to products may confuse the listener when read out by adaptive technology. 

  • Use unique link text
  • Keep the text short yet meaningful
  • Link two words rather than one 
  • Do not use the word “link” as a link in your text

In addition, consider the length and content of the embedded URL. It’s best to use dedicated URLs for content.  Imagine speaking the following URL:  versus Keyboard users or users who cannot move their hands or click a mouse can better navigate the second URL. 

Writing content to enhance the experience for all people is vital in today’s diverse world.  Take the time to consider how your web content adds context and clarity for all users —it is the right thing to do. 


Jannetta Lamourt 

Sept 21, 2021 

STC IDL SIG Social Media Director