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

Subject: RE: tool nonsense (gearing up to be a tech writer)
From: Jeff Hanvey <techwriter -at- jewahe -dot- net>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 1 May 2001 11:59:59 -0700 (PDT)

--- Alan -dot- Miller -at- prometric -dot- com

> wrote:




>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.

This, to me is where your analogy breaks down. A carpenter should be able to manufacturer his own? Last time I checked, a carpenter is a woodsmith, not a blacksmith. In today's world, anyway...he just goes to the store and purchases his planes, saws, et cetera. If no tool were available, he could create a lesser substitute, but he'd have to work with a blacksmith to create the hammer and saw.

>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.

We don't bring our own tools to the job. However, there are times when we have to. And freelancers have to provide their own tools, for the most part. If you stretch most analogies too far, their going to fall apart.

> 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 ;

What's the point? The final product is all that matters? While I agree for the most part, we're not talking about the final product...we're talking about creating that final product.

Again, analogies aren't meant to be stretched very far. It's obvious here: we have to provide our end users with the tools to access our works; carpenters don't (although a conscientious home owner would have adequate tools to maintain his home).

>-{). 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).

Carpenters, however, have to know how to use that tool to create the final product. They can't show up at a job and be productive if they've never seen a plane before. If one shows up to a job without his tools (in our case, it would be how to use that tool), he's going to hold up production completely and probably be asked to leave.


>Of course, you're entitled to your opinion...however misguided and

>wrong-headed it may be ;-{).

Sometimes, even in joking, you have to leave things unsaid. You should have left this one alone.

My experience has been that companies are tool-oriented. They don't want to hire someone who has never worked with their tool of choice. While I rate knowledge higher than the tools, I believe that ignoring the tools makes you unable to do your job. The beginning writer, then, should spend time learning them: especially the ones that are repeatedly advertised for. It's the only way to be in the market.

Again, it takes a combination of tools and subject-knowledge to make it as a technical writer. Ignore either one and you're no longer a viable candidate.

Jeff Hanvey:


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