Re: Rules, rules, rules (was Whaddya Know)

Subject: Re: Rules, rules, rules (was Whaddya Know)
From: Andrew Plato <intrepid_es -at- yahoo -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 11 Apr 2001 08:22:02 -0700 (PDT)

--- Bruce Byfield <bbyfield -at- progeny -dot- com> wrote:

> Rather than saying that the rules are less relevant to writers, I'd
> say that they have to know them in a different way. Writers need to
> know them so well that they use them by instinct. Editors have to
> have a more conscious awareness of the rules, because they often
> need to communicate them.

I can accept that in general. However, I don't know if writers need to
know the rules instinctively. I think good writers develop a voice that
plays off the rules well and as such their work usually conforms to the
rules. But thats splitting hairs.

> However, I'm a little nervous about making too strong a dichotomy
> here. A first rate editor, who can make suggestions about how to
> improve copy, has something of a writer's feel for language.
> Similarly (and despite the mythology), many of the best writers have
> an editor's conscious understanding of language.

That is debatable but yes. Most good writers have good editing skills
simply because they must edit their own work.

However, I think the division between editor and writer is an important
one to make as part of the tech writing profession. Many people who bill
themselves as technical writers are neither technical nor writers. They
are merely editors who take content they barely understand from other
people and "make it pretty". They are incapable of writing their own
material because they lack the knowledge of the topic.

Changing fonts and putting commas in the right place does not constitute
"writing." And therefore the people who only do this kind of work should
not be called "writers."

Andrew Plato

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