Tech writing class (was suggestions needed...)

Subject: Tech writing class (was suggestions needed...)
From: Andrew Plato <intrepid_es -at- yahoo -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 21 May 2001 10:27:14 -0700 (PDT)

> I am teaching a introductory college course in technical writing and
> need some suggestions of what to incorporate into the course work. What
> type of technical writing skills are needed specifically in the
> workforce? What technical areas do you see people you work with or
> supervise lack?

The overwhelming need right now is technical writers who are not afraid of
technical issues. I have literally hundreds of resumes of writers who
claim "senior" level writing status and cannot even handle the most simple
of technology issues. The "ignorance is valuable" mentality simply doesn't
fly any more.

Were I designing your course, I would focus intensely on working with
extremely complex information. How to understand basic technical designs
and issues. How to organize information and build context. How to deal
with engineers. And most important, the 5 golden questions:

What is this?
What is its purpose?
Why is designed this way?
Where are the dependencies?
How does it work?

In other words, teach writers to question the fundamental existence, use,
and rationale behind technology rather than just how to make crap the
engineers wrote "pretty."

I think focusing on the "administrative" aspects of technical writing for
an introductory course is the wrong approach. I believe the best
"introductory" classes are the ones that hit you hard with the core
functions of a particular discipline. Soft, simplified classes mislead
people into thinking a particular job is easy.

Andrew Plato

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