Re: Not Technical Enough

Subject: Re: Not Technical Enough
From: Dan Emory <danemory -at- primenet -dot- com>
To: "Jeff Hanvey" <jewahe -at- yahoo -dot- com>, "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 01 Jun 2000 21:15:05 -0700

At 09:54 PM 6/1/00 -0500, Jeff Hanvey wrote:

> A newly graduated English Lit major who gets a tech writing
> job when there's a scarcity of qualified ones can, if they're
> reasonably intelligent, pick up enough technical knowledge
> about his/her company's product line to become a proficient
> tech writer for that company's products. But that is not the
> kind of broad technical proficiency one needs to survive
> in this business.

A college major generally represents only one aspect of what that person is
good at. Besides, ff the person has enough intelligence to pick up the
technical aspects of one job, s/he can pick up the technical aspects of
another. It's not so much the material that's important, but the ability to
write clearly and coherently.

=================================================
On the first job there's a recognition the person is a bit shy of
demonstrable technical knowledge, so the employer may
cut them some slack and be willing to allocate more time
than might be needed by someone with a technical background.

But as their salary and responsibilities increase, less slack
will be granted.

And, although writing clearly and coherently is important, a
firm grasp of the technical details is equally important.

> Almost anyone can get a job in a hot market, but survival over
> the long term as an Engineering Writer during good times
> and bad requires a broad technical background.

There's the rub: you're discussing "Engineering writing." That's a
specilized type of technical writing. Could I do it? No. Would I want to?
No. I'm good at instructional writing, policies and procedures, and similar
forms of writing. And I would be the first to admit that I don't have the
background to document the things you have. However, I see myself having
longevity in this field because I have a niche.

And that's what it is all about: Niches. Technical writing is a varied
field, and some people never document anything technical - and some spend
their lives discussing tortillia machines.

Now, suddenly, you want to nit-pick about the difference between a
Technical Writer and an Engineering Writer. Somehow in your mind
the word "Technical" means something less technical than
"Engineering." And your statement that Engineering Writing is
more specialized then Technical Writing defies common sense.
The broader and deeper one's technical background is,
the less need there is for specialization. The long litany of different
kinds of user documentation I've produced during my career, as recited
in my most recent post on this thread, hardly smacks of specialization.

And niches, particularly little technology niches, have a way of disappearing.
Suddenly. Animals in highly specialized environmental niches are the ones
most vulnerable to extinction for "obvious Darwinian reasons."

Which brings me back to the "obvious reasons" for my original premise,
Which I rephrase for your benefit as follows:

English Lit majors who lack a strong technical background
will tend to be niche dwellers, making them more vulnerable
to periods of unemployment than non-niche-dwelling,
technically grounded writers with comparable writing abilities.



====================
| Nullius in Verba |
====================
Dan Emory, Dan Emory & Associates
FrameMaker/FrameMaker+SGML Document Design & Database Publishing
Voice/Fax: 949-722-8971 E-Mail: danemory -at- primenet -dot- com
10044 Adams Ave. #208, Huntington Beach, CA 92646
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References:
Re: Not Technical Enough: From: Jeff Hanvey

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