RE: Textbook writing

Subject: RE: Textbook writing
From: Marguerite Krupp <mkrupp -at- cisco -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 15 Jan 2001 14:58:53 -0500

Well, as we always say, "It depends."

I have reviewed two college-level textbooks on tech writing, and I think the
writers (academics) did a creditable job. In each case, I know I was not the
only "practitioner" they consulted, and the authors did seem to take a very
pragmatic approach to tech writing, so have a high regard for their
credibility. [Yes, I'm probably prejudiced in their favor because they used
a lot of my suggestions.]

OTOH, I got my master's degree from Boston University, a supposedly
reputable private university. The university president set a tone that
encouraged the use of free student labor (without credit) for faculty
publications, and some of the faculty members were none too careful about
appropriating material as their own that was not theirs. I suppose we should
have considered it a compliment that our stuff was considered good enough
for them to lift. That sleazy @#$%^&*!!! got rid of anyone with any
integrity, at least in the department I was studying in, and highly rewarded
those who kissed his @$$! I finished the degree, but I refused to attend the
graduation. [Yes, I'm still angry, years later.]

So the personal and professional integrity of the authors, as well as the
quality of the editing, are two factors that come into the equation. But you
also have to take into account the fact that textbooks are generally not a
high-margin item for publishers, so they're frequently unwilling to put a
lot of effort and money into quality issues.

Finally, as others have pointed out, the choice of textbooks for public
schools is often a convoluted process. As a college teacher as well as a
tech writer, I often find that my students are best served by a textbook
supplemented by additional readings. Depending on the course, I may not
require a specific text at all, but rather provide handouts and a reading
list. (The students hate that, by the way.)


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