Re[2]: The Old Argument: FrameMaker vs. MS Word

Subject: Re[2]: The Old Argument: FrameMaker vs. MS Word
From: Harry Hager <hhager -at- dttus -dot- com>
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com, mbaker -at- omnimark -dot- com
Date: 21 Jan 2000 12:58:00 -0600


Unless you are extremely secure in your present position and never
wish to work for another company, you are limiting your future
marketability as a technical writer if you think a technical writer
should not be concerned with or be able to address issues relating to
graphics, page layout, production, and so forth.

Lots of technical writers are the sole technical writer in their group
or company. By ability, by choice, or because they have to in order to
survive, these tech writers know how to deal with these issues. Almost
all free lance technical writers need to know how to deal with these

About the only tech writers that do not need to deal with these issues
are those who work for companies or groups developing software that
have enough technical writing projects to keep 3, 4, or 5 tech writers
gainfully employed. Even then, there are companies that have 30 or so
technical writers who deal with these issues on a daily basis.

I don't know the statistics, but I'd be willing to bet that there are
more software companies with only 1, or perhaps 2, technical writers
on board rather than 3, 4, or more technical writers on board.

These companies that have only 1 technical writer on board are not
necessarily small companies. They could easily be multi-million or
even 100 million dollar companies, or larger.

Seems to me that to be marketable in today's environment, the more
skills that a technical writer has the better off that person is. Even
Web page design and GUI design are not outside the skill sets of lots
of today's software technical writers.

If you don't have these (non-technical and non-writing) skills or are
not good at them, somebody else will be, and that somebody else will
get the job, or even replace you in your current job.

H. Jim Hager
Deloitte Consulting
Pittsburgh Solution Center

______________________________ Reply Separator _________________________________
Subject: Re: The Old Argument: FrameMaker vs. MS Word
Author: mbaker -at- omnimark -dot- com at Internet-USA
Date: 1/21/00 10:13 AM

Tony Rocco wrote

> Sorry, Mark, but I beg to differ. You're idea of what a tech writer is in
> this day and age is narrow and unrealistic, least in the software
> development world. I have been in this business for most of a decade and
> jobs have never been pure writing jobs (and that's OK with me).

I wasn't saying that most companies don't demand that writers also be layout
artists. They clearly do. I was saying it is a bad thing and that they
should stop doing it.

Technical writing is very hard. It requires a high degree of mastery in two
difficult areas, technology and writing. To add any more burden than that is
to ensure poor quality results in every aspect of the job. No human being
can be really good at that many different things at once.

And then there is the time factor. Good technical writers are hard to find.
If they spend 60% of their time on layout and production related jobs, you
need more than twice as many writers to complete a project.

What is the proper way to staff a department of (for example, five people)?

The usual scenario today is five writers doing all their own DTP and peer
editing. DTP skill is a key hiring requirement. The result is low
productivity, poor results, burnout and general dissatisfaction.

The proper way is three writers, one editor, and one desktop publisher or
one text programmer. The criteria for hiring writers is writing skill and
technical knowledge. The result is high productivity, good results, and
enhanced job satisfaction.

Mark Baker
Senior Technical Communicator
OmniMark Technologies Corporation
1400 Blair Place
Ottawa, Ontario
Canada, K1J 9B8
Phone: 613-745-4242
Fax: 613-745-5560
Email mbaker -at- omnimark -dot- com

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