Writing vs Desktop Publishing . Was: The Old Argument: FrameMaker vs. MS Word

Subject: Writing vs Desktop Publishing . Was: The Old Argument: FrameMaker vs. MS Word
From: "Anthony Markatos" <tonymar -at- hotmail -dot- com>
To: mbaker -at- omnimark -dot- com, techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com
Date: Fri, 21 Jan 2000 11:41:42 PST

Mark Baker wrote:

Technical writing is very hard. It requires a high degree of mastery in two difficult areas, technology and writing. To add any more burden [DTP] 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.

Tony Markatos responds:

I totally agree with you. Unfortunately, look at what is happening to our career field. I recently reviewed hundreds of on-line Tech Writer job listing to get a feel for the most frequently asked for skills. Results:

FREQUENTLY ASKED FOR TECHNICAL WRITER SKILLS

Writing, editing, grammar, FrameMaker, Robohelp, HTML, various other software packages.

INFREQUENTLY ASKED FOR TECHNICAL WRITER SKILLS

End-User Task Analysis (seems NOBODY needs any of this done), Estimating, Diagramming (Flow-charting), Standardizing (i.e., ensuring consistent use of terminology).

Now, I ask you: Think of documentation projects that really did not turn-out too well. Next, ask yourself, what were the major culprits. Were they a lack of writing, editing, or grammar skills? Lack of knowledge of the latest DTP technology?

Or was it that:

1.) No (or little) effective end-user task analysis was performed.
2.) Estimating was either done poorly or not at all. This includes firm due date projects.
3.) While the grammar was good, there was no standard use of terminology: one chapter called something an apple, another called it a banana, another an orange.
4.) No flow-charts were created to plan the organization of the documentation. I'm sorry folks, software systems, especially larger ones, are notoriously non-linear - tasks lists just don't do the job!

From what I have been exposed to, and other TWs that I know personally, it has always been the latter category.

Tony Markatos
(tonymar -at- hotmail -dot- com)


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