being too picky? (long)

Subject: being too picky? (long)
From: "Rock, Megan" <Megan -dot- Rock -at- fanucrobotics -dot- com>
To: "Techwr-l (E-mail)" <TECHWR-L -at- LISTS -dot- RAYCOMM -dot- COM>
Date: Fri, 23 Jun 2000 10:30:54 -0400

I am working on a manual for a welding control that integrates with our
products. I asked the SME to provide me with a definition for a glossary
term (MFDC), and this is what he gave me:

MFDC: Medium Frequency Direct Current. A welding control where the
operating frequency ranges from 400Hz to 1600Hz.

I asked a co-worker to do a quick edit on it for me, and this is what she
wants to change it to:

MFDC: Medium Frequency Direct Current. A method of controlling welding in
which the operating frequency ranges from 400Hz to 1600Hz.

I still need to take her edits back to the SME and have him verify the
technical accuracy of the edited definition, but so often when this happens,
the SME will read the modified version and then just look up at me and say,
"Do whatever you think makes the writing grammatically correct."

ARGH! We're not talking simply grammar, we're talking technical accuracy!
The point is, I need him to verify the technical accuracy of the definition
based on the grammatical correctness my co-worker implemented, but I get
the feeling that in many cases the SMEs simply aren't aware of the nuances
that can alter the meaning of the sentence.

Sometimes I wonder if we writers are too picky. I think we tend to see the
different "possible interpretations" because we understand and are
fascinated with language and communication, but if the SME doesn't think
there is any room for the reader to misunderstand, will the user pick up on
the different possible interpretations we writers see?

I suppose it boils down to the fact that we all tend to read and interpret
things differently regardless of how carefully something is worded, but I
sometimes ask myself, "If the original version made sense to the SME and the
other two guys who reviewed it (they're actually part of my target
audience), who am I to come in and tweak the wording to match my own
grammatical style and then ask them, 'Hey, did I change the meaning much
when I rewrote it this way?'"

Megan E. Rock
Technical Writer
Product Information
megan -dot- rock -at- fanucrobotics -dot- com

All views expressed are entirely my own and are not necessarily shared by my
friends, co-workers, or employer.

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