Re: Worthless Tech Comm Degrees

Subject: Re: Worthless Tech Comm Degrees
From: "Mark Baker" <mbaker -at- omnimark -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 24 Mar 2000 18:26:53 -0500

Chuck Martin wrote

> I received the following in private reply to a piece of a post I wrote
> yesterday.

Actually, I meant to send it to the list. I guess I just hit the wrong

> Naturally, I disagree. I also take offense; the response is of a
> tone I have encountered from any number of developers and managers, that
> discipline of technical communication is nothing more than that of a
> glorified secretary.

You clearly disagree, since I was disagreeing with you, but you are wrong to
take offence and wrong to read something into my statement that is not
there. To say that technical writing is just writing how-to books for
corporations is not at all to say that it is easy. It isn't easy at all. It
is very hard. My contention is that it is one of the broad class of jobs for
which one prepares with a sound general education, and not with specific
professional training. This in no ways diminishes its importance or its
difficulty. It simply defines what kind of occupation it is.

> This response, which I have encountered at many turns,
> I think belittles all the training and experience I have garnered over the
> years (in many more areas than just writing)--and continue to obtain (for
> example, I'm taking a UNIX evening class this semester).

It does nothing of the sort. On the contrary, the fact that a technical
writer must continue to learn all sorts of things over the course of their
career is evidence of the fact that technical writing falls in the general
education camp and not in the professional training camp.

> I should add that my response to those who display such attitudes is that
> do far more than "just" write. I have designed information systems for
> print and online, I've edited, been a product photographer, found and
> reported bugs, designed and re-designed interfaces, been a user and
> usability advocate, and more.

Now who's diminishing the dignity of writing? Your description makes it
sound like just like the kind of dogsbody role you complain that other see
it as. Not "just writing"??? Do you hear software developers saying "I
don't just write code. I also design the logo, brew the coffee, edit the
documentation, master the CDs and sweep the floor."? I don't.

> My mentor at my first job after college
> graduation (thanks Terry) once said that I have to toot my own horn,
> no one else will do it for me. I do a helluva lot more than write how-to
> books and I'm damn proud of the talents and skills I've developed.

So do I, but when I am acting as a technical communicator I write how-to
books. I don't sit and type all day. I do all kinds of activities as part of
my research for writing how-to books. As a member of a development team I
participate in many of the common activities of that team such as design
reviews and quality control. But at the end of the day the reason for my job
and the thing they pay me to do is to write books about how to program in

The role of how-to book writer is a complex and difficult one. But it is a
role that any intelligent educated person can play, if they are interested
and willing to do the work.

> >
> > Chuck Martinwrote
> >
> > > TC is an engineering discipline.
> >
> > Technical communication is not a discipline, it is a job title.
> >
> > It's just the title given to people who write how-to books
> > for corporations.
> >

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