RE: Not Technical Enough

Subject: RE: Not Technical Enough
From: William Gage <wjgage -at- yahoo -dot- com>
To: TECHWR-L <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 1 Jun 2000 11:15:13 -0700 (PDT)

The undiplomatic Dan Emory <danemory -at- primenet -dot- com>

> The English Lit majors will be out on the street,
> wishing they'd
> settled for an academic sinecure or editing
> position.

You wish!

Dan, I have to respectfully disagree with you about
the qualifications of English majors to write
technical documentation. Your comments are evidence
of misunderstanding among writers and engineers alike
that technical acumen and writing skills are mutually
exclusive and that writers cannot learn to think like
or even be engineers. What you can say is that an
English Literature major *alone* doesn?t qualify
someone to be a technical writer. Let me clarify:

(1) An English Literature major is good training for
technical writing. A degree in English decidedly
*does not* involve writing in a style that emulates
James Joyce. As anyone who has received the major
knows, a degree in English Literature mostly involves
reading literature and then writing reams of
analytical essays about what you've read. You
therefore write a great deal and are graded on what
you write more than anything else. You get a lot of
practice in analytical, nonfiction writing -- much
more than most engineers receive before they graduate
from school. A background in analytical, nonfiction
writing makes sense for someone who writes technical
documentation for a living, does it not?

(2) A person who majors in English Literature can
become an excellent technical writer or engineer with
enough technical training and experience. I graduated
with an English Literature degree and worked my way
from a junior editorial position, to a more senior
editorial position with substantive editing duties, to
technical writing. Along the way, I augmented my
writing skills with programming certifications,
coursework, and hacking code on my own time. Without
the technical training, I wouldn?t be the excellent
technical writer that I am.

So let?s not write one another off, so the speak.
This listserv has an incessant argument about who?s
better: engineers who learned to write or writers who
learned engineering. I am disappointed to see that
some senior writers still haven?t figured out that
writers should be respected for both their products
and their backgrounds.

James Gage
Ubizen, Inc.

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