RE: Tech writing class (was suggestions needed...)

Subject: RE: Tech writing class (was suggestions needed...)
From: "Swallow, William" <WSwallow -at- courion -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 21 May 2001 14:04:15 -0400

While I basically agree with Andrew, I do have some other thoughts to share
on this topic.

:: 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.

I'll buy that, though I've never heard of the "ignorance is valuable"
mentality. Yes, an "ignorance is valuable" viewpoint is very beneficial
(understanding and thus designing *through* the mentality of those who don't
know better), but for those using it as an experience war cry, gimme a

[I was looking for the original quote "write what you know" but stumbled on
this instead: Good related
topic... You can write about that which you do not know, provided you LEARN
IT. *g*]

So yes, a tech writer who does not know the pertinent technology for the
deliverable is about as useful as a programmer with an aversion to

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

AGREED!!! But I still believe this is best reserved for mid- to
advanced-level schooling. No student in his/her right mind would put up with
such a class for a 100(basic)-level credit (voluntarily). I'm not saying
break them in easy, but to throw all this at a 17-19 year-old target
audience is, well... pointless. These kids are still getting over their
transition to college... Nevermind that they are probably not at all
professionally-oriented enough for a class of that rigor to hit home. I was
there not too long ago (10 years... damn!), and I remember the "important
things" well... if it's possible to schedule all my classes for
tuesday-thursday, if it's possible to schedule all my classes for the late
morning/early afternoon, what classes my friends are in, what teacher is a
jerk and who's a pushover, and where the nightly kegger is tonight. *g*
(notice dating is absent from the list... my school's m:f ratio kinda erased
that possibility from our (guys') minds almost (*almost*) completely). *vbg*

Where was I? Oh, yeah... frosh/sophmore students (target audience for an
intro course) aren't ready (blanket statement, but accurate... flame me off
list please) for that type of "impact".

:: 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.

I agree with your stance on the administrative part, as well as the whole
rhetorical theory stuff... that's good for enhancement, but I think
practicality is in order up front. Teach them the important stuff... how to
write an effective procedure, how to find info, how to write for a specific
audience, etc. But throwing too much at them at once confuses, overloads,
and scares. Give them the good stuff, but allow some breathing room! After
all, chances are half the class will be tired/hung over anyway. *vbg*

Technical Writer
1881 Worcester Road
Framingham, Mass. 01701
T E L * 508-879-8400 x316
F A X * 508-879-8500


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