Re: The Real Offense

Subject: Re: The Real Offense
From: "Jason A. Czekalski" <topsidefarm -at- mva -dot- net>
To: TECHWR-L digest <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 10 Mar 2000 13:13:12 -0800

Andrew Plato <intrepid_es -at- yahoo -dot- com> wrote:
For example - I think ALL tech writers in the computer industry should
forced at gunpoint to take a C++ and SQL class (or something similar).
who know how programs are written and databases are used are 1000 times
qualified to write about those things.

Me thinks Andrew needs to broaden his horizons. Too much time spent on
software. The fact is that many of never work on anything related to
computers. Technical writing/communication is a much broader field than

In my case, I do documentation for manufacturing equipment and
processes, as well as qulity control systems. The key requirements in my
field are the ability to communicate effectively to my target audience,
and the ability to quickly learn the subject matter being written about.
I have written top quality documents for equipment I had little or no
foreknowledge of. But my very broad real-world background gave me the
ability to master the material in a very short period of time.

And while we are on the subject of the real world, and what actually
counts, I want to ask a question about tools. Who started this BS about
having to be a master at this tool or that tool in order to qualify for
a specific job. I was always led to believe that it was communication
ability that counted. Yet the first question I run into, on just about
every contract, is may qualification with FrameMaker, or ROBOHelp, or
FreeHand, etc., ad nauseum.

When you take your car to the garage, what is your primary concern? That
the mechanic can properly fix your car, or that he or she is qualified
with Snap-On tools? Oh, the shop only has Craftsman tools. Too bad,
you'll have to take your car to another shop. NOT! So why does this
mentallity dominate the tech writing industry? Why do we let let it?

The same goes for the education issue. Why is it so important to have a
Journalism/English degree? My education is over 25 years of experience
in industry. I have a well developed portfolio, which blows most
managers away when they see it. And yet, that 4-year degree keeps
getting in the way. Many times, the lack of a 4-year degree prevents me
from even getting to show my portfolio to the person making the hiring
decision. And this is a particularly annoying issue for me. In every
instance where I have gotten to show my work, I have won the contract.
That has included times when other applicants were better qualified by
education or work history, or were asking for less money.

And I will join Andrew in his attack on the STC. They seem to have some
pretty twisted priorities. I don't see any real effort to make
COMMUNICATION the issue. Why not push to have tech writers refuse to
list tools on their resume? Why not help teach writers to write resumes
that better communicate the idea that it is communication ability that

Am I alone in feeling frustrated? I love to write. It is what I want to
do. But the industry reminds me of the Queen of Hearts in Alice in


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