RE: Real Writers - WRITE

Subject: RE: Real Writers - WRITE
From: "Cummings, Elizabeth" <CummEl -at- ncs -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 27 Oct 2000 18:20:20 -0500

Okay, it's past 5 on Friday, and everyone's probably tired of this string of
posts, but I wanted to acknowledge Jim's message:

Jim's right on. My start in the working world was in the schoolhouse,
where, in order to succeed, you have to design lessons with the student in
mind. Needless to say, this skill goes unnoticed by the masses--esp. when
you're trying to get your foot in the door to the corporate world.

How ironic, then, that my first stint there (after many horrid months of
rejections) I would have the title of Instructional Design Specialist. I'd
grown bitter during my teaching experience, realizing how little most people
think teachers are capable of, so when I was anointed an "IDS", I found the
title laughable: OHHHH, so in the CORPORATE WORLD, what teachers do is
actually recognized (i.e., Instructional Design) as a skill--you just have
to use the right euphemism for teaching know-how when you're selling
yourself as a former teacher. I was so accustomed to this skill receiving
no attention, I felt uncomfortable with this larger-than-life title. At
first, I thought, Just call me a writer, for crying out loud. Once I
realized how little even fellow solid writers knew about instructional
design, though, I thought, OK, this title makes sense.

Instructional design is crucial to true writing (a la A. Plato). Even
someone with an excellent command of the language may not realize/know how
to provide instructions in a visually user-friendly manner to a novice--or
for that matter, to anyone who has basic expectations of instructions (i.e.,
that they are broken down in chunks that are easily processed by the brain,
that they are readable (easy-to-see font type, style, size, color), and that
they don't make unfair assumptions of what resources the user will have on

It goes without saying that instructional design is not about simply
prettying up the writing (a lot of gussying up can cause more problems, as
we all know.)--it's about practicing the art of getting in someone else's
shoes and figuring out how to design things so that he or she can breeze
through the instructions and carry out a task with confidence the first time
and the next.

--Elizabeth, another Technical so-called Writer, missing the title of
Instructional Designer, even though she can and does truly write in her
present position

-----Original Message-----
From: Jim Shaeffer [mailto:jims -at- spsi -dot- com]
Sent: Friday, October 27, 2000 3:52 PM
Subject: RE: Real Writers - WRITE

I can manipulate information in lots of ways, most of which will obscure the
content, not communicate it.

I succeed if my audience gets the knowledge that _they_ need when _they_
need it.

By this definition of success, it matters not one whit if I understand beans
about my subject. All that matters is that that my presentation communicates
the knowledge to my audience.

The knowledge in my mind is irrelevant. The knowledge imparted to my
audience is what matters. Isn't that what usability testing is all about?

(Some people even argue that knowing too much about one's topic means that
one loses the 'mind of the learner'. Then, the writer becomes just another
SME spouting convoluted jargon.)

Jim Shaeffer
jims -at- spsi -dot- com

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