RE: Top ten myths of technical communication

Subject: RE: Top ten myths of technical communication
From: "Jennifer Freeman" <basilisk -at- acm -dot- org>
To: <TECHWR-L -at- LISTS -dot- RAYCOMM -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 18 Oct 2000 13:32:24 -0500

Software Engineering methodology usually says that things go in this order:
1. Discovering user requirements
2. Developing specs
3. Writing code
4. (etc.)
so I find it interesting that experienced people would think that technical
writers would come in at the second stage, move to the first, _then_ switch
to the third. Have you (or anyone else who has encountered this phenomena)
ever asked them to explain their reasoning?
To me, it seems that the first is the natural stage to involve technical
writers (in our role as user advocates.) And that technical writers might
need to be involved in the second just so they can understand what's going
on from the SME's POV. But it beats me why any technical writer would want
to be involved in the third stage (unless they are secretly yearning to be a
And as for that, I can supply ancedotal counter-edvidence: I was trained
as a programmer, with a Masters (and part of a Ph.D.) in Computer Science,
and am now attempting to become a technical writer. :) Trust me,
programming and technical writing involve vastly different skill sets.
-Jennifer Freeman
basilisk -at- acm -dot- org

> -----Original Message-----
> One odd misconception of technical writing that senior P/As have voiced to
> me in various jobs: The natural career progression of technical
> writers is
> for them to eventually become programmers. Apparently the
> rationale is that
> with increasing experience in software development, TWs finally slide into
> developing specs with SMEs, then discovering high-level user requirements,
> and finally they wind up writing the code instead of "merely"
> explaining it.
> However, nobody who's suggested this myth to me could come up
> with more than
> anecdotal evidence of this progressive career change.
> Bill McClain
> ("Writers are always selling somebody out." - Joan Didion)

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