Re: being too picky?

Subject: Re: being too picky?
From: Bruce Byfield <bbyfield -at- axionet -dot- com>
To: techwr-l digest recipients <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 28 Jun 2000 10:34:00 -0700

Berk/Devlin <armadill -at- earthlink -dot- net> wrote:

>Respectfully, I need to disagree a little at least. There are some areas
>of technical writing in which being a quick study and asking intelligent
>questions does not cut it. It just takes too long. Being an expert makes
>you faster and significantly more effective (and, therefore, much more
>highly paid).

It's true that expertise makes you productive faster. Also,
learning as you go isn't much use in a project that lasts two

However, it's perfectly possible to learn enough to write highly
technical documents. Remember:

- Writers rarely write code. They just have to read it, which is
somewhat easier.

- Thorough commenting can be an immense help, even to coders.

- Writers can often consult a coder if they need to or even -
shudder! - a technical reference.

- Assuming that an average project lasts 3 months, that's enough
time to get a good initial grounding in almost any subject. The
trick is, you have to be conscientious to get it. The flawed
examples you mention aren't so much the result of how previous
writers worked, but of a sloppy attitude to work, or perhaps a
lack of time or proper review. The previous writers should have
known enough to check what was beyond their competence. It
shouldn't be a question of faking expertise.

Personally, after my first exposure to source code, I realized
that, if I was going to deal with it again, I did need to make my
knowledge more systematic, and started looking into books and
courses. However, the manual that resulted from my first exposure
was as thorough as a man page, and infinitely better arranged for
quick reference.

None of which denies the importance of expertise: only that there
is only one way to get it.

Bruce Byfield, Outlaw Communications
Contributing Editor, Maximum Linux
bbyfield -at- axionet -dot- com | Tel: 604.421.7189

"I dig a ditch, I shape a stone,
Another battlement for his throne,
Another day on earth has flown,
We're all working for the Pharaoh."
-Richard Thompson, "Pharaoh"

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