RE: several recent threads on being technical vs. being a writer in the field of tech writing

Subject: RE: several recent threads on being technical vs. being a writer in the field of tech writing
From: "MacLemale, Laura A. (LNG-MBC)" <Laura -dot- A -dot- MacLemale -at- bender -dot- com>
To: "'TECHWR-L'" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 5 Jun 2000 13:29:48 -0400


I agree with Scott's comments below, and I'm just adding my comments based
solely on my own experiences.

As many others have noted, this thread has a way of resurfacing at various
times on this list. I've been a member of this list for about a year and a
half, and last year around this time I had just graduated and started my
first full-time tech writing position. This particular thread, about whether
being technical or being a writer was more valuable in the profession,
caused me some inner turmoil at that time.

Though not an "English Lit" major, I definitely came into the field with the
emphasis on writing. The writing comes a bit more easily; the "technical"
requires effort and work. That said, last year's appearance of this thread
caused me to question my career choices: especially the student loans I had
racked up completing a tech comm graduate program.

Now, after a year in the trenches, this thread (and other similar threads
about tech writers' backgrounds) reminds me how lucky I am to be part of a
profession in which such a cross-section of skills, talents, *and*
personalities can find a niche. Though I do have to expend extra effort at
times, (lots of research on my own time), I find that I really like what I
do on a daily basis.

So, I hope that this thread isn't disconcerting to any new tech writers out
there, whether you are a recent grad or recent career-changer (or however
you have joined us). I think if you can jump in with both feet, you have all
the potential you need to succeed. At times you may sweat a little while
developing your skills, whether you are an engineer polishing your writing
or fiction-writer learning how to write HTML help, etc. But the great thing
is that you will always be learning and enhancing your skill set. (Plus--you
get to try a lot of cool software before anyone else!)

This list emphasizes the diversity of the members of our field, and this
diversity is to its credit.


Laura A. MacLemale
Technical Communications Coordinator
Matthew Bender, part of LEXIS Publishing
1275 Broadway
Albany, NY 12204
Phone (518) 487-3465
Fax (518) 487-3681
Laura -dot- A -dot- MacLemale -at- bender -dot- com


Subject: Re: Not Technical Enough
From: Bettina & Scott Wahl <wahl -at- sympatico -dot- ca>
Date: Sun, 04 Jun 2000 18:57:15 -0400
X-Message-Number: 16

> The point is that neither the tech weenie who can't communicate nor
> the English major who has an aversion to math and science is likely
> to make a successful technical writer who is able to take on any
> writing assignment.

Well, duh. Surely we didn't need another lengthy thread to figure this out.

This is such a silly discussion. I've met many people with liberal arts
degrees who
are not only good at communicating complex information, but have also taken
time to get a deep technical understanding of what they are trying to
They are really good. I aspire to be one of them.

On the flip side, I've met many excellent engineers and software designers
who can
communicate very effectively, and do. We work very well together.

And besides, it depends on the job. Of course a good technical writer needs
to have
a thorough understanding of the subject, but the level of technical
required depends on what it is you're trying to communicate.

Scott Wahl
Manager, Customer Documentation & Training
Bridgewater Systems

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