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, 28 Jul 2000 09:56:45 -0600

> I don't think the
> problem is
> the classroom. Schools started ramping up in the middle 60's
> adding staff,
> infrastructure, programs, etc. When the decline in student populations
> started a few years back they had to scramble to replace the lost tuition
> revenue. I suspect the weak tech writing programs are taught by academics
> who have never worked on a high-tech development project and are teaching
> from a tech writing text focusing exclusively on writing per se.
In many schools, that is true, but ...
I have an MA in Tech Writing at a somewhat strong department (Iowa State
University). And I was disappointed in the courses.

I think what is basically wrong with the concept of teaching tech writing is
that so much of it is very contextual in the workplace. While the ISU profs
certainly hammered in the idea that all writing is rhetorical, mastering the
rhetoric of your individual workplace cannot be done outside of your
workplace. You can't teach that. You can teach vocabulary, proposal design,
graphic design, basic writing points and offer internships, etc. But the
heart of tech writing is experience.

Also, tech writing departments don't want to be tool teaching departments:
they typically don't teach tools classes, but expect you to pick up tools on
your own. I am of 2 minds about that. Tools exposure often gets you

Finally, tech writing departments do not often have cross-curricular
projects for writers. Working with content experts (engineers, biologists,
etc.) would provide great insight to the working world, but projects that
can be done in a half semester are somewhat bogus by nature. And the
departments often want the cross-curricular work, but the university
administration makes it virtually impossible to accomplish.

All in all, I recommend tech writing departments and classes, but I don't
require degrees for my employees.

Walden Miller
Director, Vidiom Systems
Boulder, Colorado

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