RE: tool nonsense (gearing up to be a tech writer)

Subject: RE: tool nonsense (gearing up to be a tech writer)
From: Alan -dot- Miller -at- prometric -dot- com
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 1 May 2001 14:05:06 -0400


Good analogy. But your point is slightly off target (to mix up a metaphor
to order). As the scion of four generations of German carpenters, let me
recast your bottom line. Yes, a carpenter must know his tools (hammer,
plane, saw, bit and brace, etc.). However, the carpenter can do his job
with *any* hammer, et al (whether it's a Stanley or one inherited with a
self-made custom handle). And if none are available, he is perfectly
capable of manufacturing his own. While I don't advocate a TW necessarily
being able to write word processing software, I *do* advocate being able to
do the job with whatever tools are provided.

This is where the analogy falls down...carpenters take their own tools to
the job, we usually don't. Also, I can live in a house even if the
carpenter used Stanley tools to build it and my toolbox is populated with
tools that were old when that chap from Nazareth was learning the trade ;
-{). Carpentry is not about tools, it's about shaping wood into useful (and
hopefully, pleasing) forms. The same is true of TW. We shape words into
useful (and sometimes pleasing) forms. Yes, we must be skilled with our
tools, but ultimately, the tool doesn't matter as long as the product is
successful (i.e., the client/boss likes it well enough to pay us).

Of course, you're entitled to your opinion...however misguided and
wrong-headed it may be ;-{).

Al Miller
Chief Documentation Curmudgeon
Prometric, Inc.

Jeff Hanvey <techwriter -at- jewahe -dot- net> on 05/01/2001
12:08:45 PM

Please respond to Jeff Hanvey <techwriter -at- jewahe -dot- net>

Sent by: bounce-techwr-l-40429 -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com

To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>

Subject: RE: tool nonsense (gearing up to be a tech writer)

I'm going to be the dessenting vote here.

I agree that tools aren't as important as knowledge. You can't get very far
if you don't know the why's and wherefore's of what you're doing - that
means a firm grounding in writing and whatever technology you're writing
about. It also means that you should know your audience - or how to
determine who your audience is - and how best to reach them.

BUT (just keeping with the debate's structure), you can't do without the

Bottom line: a carpenter would not find work if he only knows the theory of
how to build a house, but couldn't use the paraphanelia of his craft. The
same is true of technical writing: you have to know the tools; companies
just can't allow on-the-job training (if you find one that will give you
time, then you're lucky). They want measurable progress from the start.

To me, you can't separate the two; the craft comes from applying your
knowledge through your tools. If you come to the job with a deficiency in
either, the job is going to take a lot longer, be a lot more painful, and
probably won't be anywhere near the quality it should be.
Jeff Hanvey:



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