RE: Not Technical Enough

Subject: RE: Not Technical Enough
From: "walden miller" <wmiller -at- vidiom -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 2 Jun 2000 12:37:36 -0600

> I'm inclined to agree that this thread has run its course.

> People who exclusively write Policies and Procedures manuals
> are not technical writers, they're Policies and Procedures
> Writers, who, if they're qualified, ought to have some kind of
> background in Business Administration.

People who write policies and procedures ARE tech writers--just not
computer/engineering writers. The field of tech writers in not limited to
computers. Many years ago, I worked in Des Moines, Iowa: an insurance and
banking town. The majority of tech writers working in DSM are writing
policies and procedures for insurance agencies and banks. This is no small
task and requires a "technical" expertise that I do not have, but I could

> People who specialize in writing instructional materials
> (i.e., training manuals) may or may not be technical writers,
> depending on what the subject matter is, and in any event,
> they should have a strong background in training.

Again, just because they don't fit your idea of a technical writer doesn't
mean they aren't tech writers. The computer/engineering industry is only a
part of the market for tech writers.

> The job titles Technical Writer and Engineering Writer may be
> distinguishable, but both should be reserved for people who write
> on technical subjects, and are well-grounded technically.

When you say technical subject, you are assuming that the information of any
given field is not "technical" unless it meets the engineering/computer
criteria. What about medical writers, pharmaceutical writers, professional
proposal writers, cookbook writers,...? All require an expertise that can
be construed as technical, although few require GUI backgrounds, etc.

HOWEVER, I agree with you about writing in the computer industry...

Here I paraphrase--
A good Engineering Writer must be able to write to and for engineers.
A good Computer Industry writer must be able to write end user documentation
from information provided from engineers or from research into code

I would add that an engineering writer and a computer industry writer, to
excel in their field, must have the appropriate technical background for
their industry. For example, I work in the interactive television market.
My background includes, among other things: MPEG encoding/decoding, graphic
design for television, interactive application design, multimedia process
research, embedded systems OS/API, authoring tools for CD technologies (DVD,
CD-i, VCD, CD-DA, etc.), computer languages (JAVA, C++, C). To work in this
market as a computer technical writer, I need this background. I do not
need it to work as a medical technical writer; instead, I need a background
in biology/medical topics.

I just dislike the marginalizing of tech writers within our own community.
We have more in common than not.

Walden Miller
Manager, Technical Documentation
Vidiom Systems
Boulder, Colorado

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