What sayest me... on Worthless TC Degrees

Subject: What sayest me... on Worthless TC Degrees
From: "Kathi Knill" <kathi -at- inline-software -dot- com>
To: "Tech Writers" <TECHWR-L -at- LISTS -dot- RAYCOMM -dot- COM>
Date: Fri, 24 Mar 2000 12:29:00 -0600

Gary Maxwell asks:

That stated....what sayest thou?

>>>> I too have been sitting back and wondering whether to add my .02. Of
course, since I am a writer, I do have an opinion, and i feel like stating

First of all, I would like to say to Tom M. - I think you let yourself get
too irritated by Andrew. although he was surely "egging" some of us on, he
also contributed to the thread by offering a "controversial" message for us
to toss about. not so bad if you look at it that way, is it ;>) I often fall
back on my belief that as writers we all have opinions and we like to state
them. Even if Andrew makes up 1/2 of his sh**, who cares. We have a list
where we can bat it around. If it wasn't a tech writer topic, that is a
different story. But... Anyway, Tom I don't want you to feel like I am
saying anything negative to you. I just used a long-winded way to say "it's
okay, don't let him get to you. you only fuel the fire if you give him what
we think he wants!)

And now for some of my thoughts on what others wrote on this topic:
Sella Rush wrote:

While along the degree path people will learn about whitespace, fonts,
etc.,the most important topic that Tech Comm courses can--and do--teach is
how to gather *data*, digest and process *data*, and spit out *data* in some
form that's usable to people who might actually need it.

>>>> I think that any good college education will teach someone how to
gather, process, and spit out "data." After all, I cannot believe that you
can go through four years of college and not have one research paper to
write! And it doesn't matter in what major a person gets the education.
College education is generally designed to teach students the skills of
thinking and learning. Probably a majority of college students learn that if
they don't know something, or the teacher did not discuss a topic that was
"required reading," the only way to find out about it is either ask someone
or find an article, book, magazine, etc. on the topic. So, what do you learn
in college -- how to find out about topics you don't know about.

>>>> I believe that the organization, fonts, white space, etc. can be
learned by taking a week long seminar on tech writing. There you get the
basics. When you get to a job, 90% of the time there is some standards
manual in place. So, that is where you learn how to format the document for
that job. And you know what? If there is no standards manual, and there is
no one else writing, then you are left to your own skills to determine how
to layout the doc. What then? Same thing as in college....research!! Check
out other manuals (even outside the company). Whatever, but you learn to do
that in any good college program.

Beth Scudder wrote:

However, any technical writer worth *anything* also knows that the
organizational structure of said data is worth far more than one might
think. Among many other things, a good organizational structure allows the
user to find the appropriate information easily. Without that structure, the
data will never be found, or used... big help the user manual is then.)

>>> Amen to that Beth. When I first got in to tech writing, my mother (who
is a librarian turned lawyer) asked what I was going to be doing as a tw. I
told her it is basically about writing those manuals that go with software
(that is my focus anyway). Her response was "Oh good. I hope you write
manuals that people can understand. The ones that I have tried to use speak
in a language that no lay person can understand. What is worse is -- you can
never find anything. The book is never organized in a clear way and the
index doesn't use words that the lay person would recognize." I stop
quoting now, but she did go on for a while (what do you want, she is getting
old.) Just passing this along -- I heard it from the "USER"!!!!!

Basically I am saying that whatever your "degree" is in, tech writing is not
just about a degree. It is about being able to be introduced to some
"Thing," and then tell what it is, how it is used, why, etc.The degree you
have may be in English, Tech Writing, Speech & Hearing Pathology (that's was
me after college), or Basketball. However, if you want a tw job, you have to
be sure that you can figure out what "Things" are, sometimes with minimal if
any co-worker input, and explain them so someone else can understand.

In a nutshell, my opinion is make yourself an educated person (college or
no), learn how to think, learn how to learn, and strive for what you want to

Kathi Jan Knill
Inline-Software Corporation
kathi -at- inline-software -dot- com
"Don't go around saying the world owes you a living; the world owes you
nothing; it was here first" -- Mark Twain

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