Re: The Real Offense

Subject: Re: The Real Offense
From: Jason Deal <jason-deal -at- vertel -dot- com>
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com
Date: Wed, 08 Mar 2000 11:22:38 -0800

David Downing writes:
I think it more likely that these folks went through some type of academic
training program, and have yet to learn that the demands of a real-world
job are different than those of the classroom In a classroom, you?re
supposed to examine theories, methods, etc., while in the real world,
you?re supposed to get the job done ASAP. The writers Andrew complains
about may simply be laboring under a mistaken impression of what is the
right thing to do.

As a techwriter intern currently enduring the glamour that is college (yay,
no sleep, 2 term papers, 3 classes, and API docs to boot!), I can attest to
the folly academia pushes on us through forcing us to learn method, not
result. Strangely enough, I do not know any fellow students capable of
using a WYSIWYG editor for HTML. Every student I know who took a web
design class has the idea in their heads that only hand-coded HTML will do,
even though I can bang out a page in PageMill, refine it by hand, and be
done in one-tenth the time. I know engineering students who will only
write in Word, and would never deign to touch notepad or vi. All because
some professor forced them to write with a certain tool, not to a certain

If I didn't know it was so absolutely vital to have the degree to get my
foot in the door to any company, I wouldn't even be at college -- I haven't
learned one thing here truly relevant to techwriting. Admittedly, I am not
pursuing a Technical Writing degree (UCSD doesn't offer one, and a history
major gets me out earliest anyway), but my history major is a
writing-intensive area, and I've recieved no feedback from any professor on
my writing style or method of persuasion. My computer science classes are
a joke, requiring only a modest effort to pass once you've done some real
world practice. Then, worst of all, I learn inefficient, outdated methods
of finishing any work that have no real bearing on the marketplace.
Method, and the standardization thereof throughout a company, may be vital
to good documentation, but that should be learned in the marketplace.

So the rest of you out there, especially the current students/recent grads,
did you learn anything, and I mean anything at all, relevant to technical
writing from the academic portion of college (I do not mean to infer that
the interpersonal skills one learns in college are unimportant)? Am I just
caught in an unfriendly system, or does academia's adherence to method over
results actually hurt us all?

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