RE: Bitterness toward technical writers

Subject: RE: Bitterness toward technical writers
From: "Le Vie, DonaldX S" <donaldx -dot- s -dot- le -dot- vie -at- intel -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 8 Jan 2001 05:24:58 -0800

Melanie asked:

>>Is it really common for tech writers to argue about design with
non-designers? Or is this an apocryphal theory?<<

In the past, I simply pointed to the style guide and didn't engage anyone
outside of the technical communications department about fonts or any other
design issues. We had a process in place that allowed everyone to submit
requests for changes, additions, deletions to the style guide every year.
That practice prevented many useless peeing contests.

One former manager of mine at Motorola (an engineer) once asked me to sit
down with the division's Golden Child and go over line-by-line my
corrections to his white paper that he thought was just perfect. Turns out,
his biggest pain points were my punctuation changes (he didn't complain
about the content changes). I told her no, that was a waste of his time and
mine and that instead, I would refer him to the style guide that explains
the changes.

Last summer, when I was interviewing for some contract work, a division
engineering manager asked me "What do you see as one of the most significant
problems with documentation?" I gave him my most eloquent response about the
paucity of usable content in user documentation, and he interrupted with:
"But what about the font problems you have when you go from a Unix
environment to a PC environment? You know, when you use some fonts with the
fancy design and others that don't?"

I asked him: "You mean serif and non-serifed fonts, like Helvetica and Times
Roman?"

"Yeah, that's it," he replied

"First of all, that's a system issue, not a documentation one."

EXACTLY why we don't need to try to waste time debating such issues. In
fact, I've never had to go to an engineer to debate his choice of timer
signals or register definitions. Technical folks often see the world as just
one engineering challenge after another, and easily solved with an
engineering/technical solution.


Donn Le Vie


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