RE: The Real Offense

Subject: RE: The Real Offense
From: "Christensen, Kent" <lkchris -at- sandia -dot- gov>
To: "'TECHWR-L'" <TECHWR-L -at- LISTS -dot- RAYCOMM -dot- COM>
Date: Fri, 10 Mar 2000 11:13:44 -0700

Kimber Miller contributes significantly to this discussion and I can only
add some dismal thoughts. Yes, economics is quite rightly called the
"dismal science" and it's when we leave college and enter the job market
that things can get dismal. It's a painful process, not unlike weaning a
child or puppy, and it's not for nothing your college is referred to as alma
mater--kindly mother.

Kimber notes "We expect high school and college grads to be 'able to do
something' at 100%, the day after graduation." Well, in the job market it's
not every organization that can afford to invest in continuing your
education--many need contribution to the bottom line asap. This bottom line
desperation can create resentment. Please consider "desperation."

Resentment arises in other ways. Damn near everyone considers themself a
"people person," and consequently and naturally can feel resentment towards
someone espousing "I'm a better communicator than you," which is what you do
just because you have the degree in technical writing and frankly just
because you exist as the technical writer. There's also a density problem.
I'm pretty convinced a majority of engineers, computer scientists, etc. feel
their university education was more "dense" than yours as a technical
writer. That is, they just think they learned more things and worked harder
during the same time period. Economically, again, they think they're more
cost conscious (and liability conscious) than you as well. And, they
certainly are the subject matter experts (SME) and think they're "people
persons," too and could do your job, and all of this adds up to scepticism
regarding the potential of your contribution.

Desperation. Resentment. Scepticism. Density. Liability.

All is not lost or so dismal, however, because many SME don't want to do
your job. Problem is, they also don't want to spend very much time helping
you. Your job, should you choose to accept it, is to first not to think of
yourself as writer and best communicatior in the company, but to realize
your task is to become yourself a subject matter expert. Not in designing
the product but in using it. And, obviously, in then telling others how.

So then, consider how a broad, liberal, basic--whatever words you
want--education has prepared you to quickly become a subject matter expert.
So much of our economy today is electronic it seems, and there is most
certainly need to communicate how to use electronic products. Given that we
technical writers use word processors, graphics software, etc., we have some
head start at becoming SMEs in this area. But if you're to write aircraft
maintenance manuals, where did you learn about aircraft? I'm pleased to see
postings on this list wherein folks identify themselves as engineer turned
technical writer. That's the way it has to be.

List of disclaimers follows.

Many folks work their way through college--please don't take offense if I
seem to imply entering the post-college job market represents a first
encounter with economic realities or hardships. The assumption is the
post-college job is a better one and consequently one that's more demanding,
the most demanding yet.

Big believer here in liberal education. Technical education too. Love all
types of people. Resentment happens due to naturally occurring economic
pressures, and I offer it's just as useful to practice not encouraging it as
it is not exhibiting it.

Word "dismal" is a tool. Personally, I think it's partly sunny and


It would be useful to rethink "Trade schools don't teach you to think," I

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