RE: Individual vs. Departmental Writer's Voice

Subject: RE: Individual vs. Departmental Writer's Voice
From: "Jane Carnall" <jane -dot- carnall -at- digitalbridges -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 13 Jun 2001 10:47:13 +0100

>If I might be permitted to be a little hard-nosed, the answer for the
>uniforms issue works for this one as well: if a person wants to be
>creative, then they should do it on their own time. They're being paid to
>follow departmental standards and, more importantly, in this non-fiction
>industry we call tech writing, individual creativity is low on the totem
>pole. And as someone else said, that's one reason why companies use
>editors: to help ensure documentation has one uniform voice and appearance.

Last time I worked in a team of technical writers (all working on the same
big Help project) we had an *extremely* thorough (some might even say,
picky) style guide. Each time a repeating phrase came up, the "best
practice" phrase was put in the style guide, and thereafter, you used that
phrase from the style guide: you didn't get to make individual "creative"

What saved us (well, me: I was Writer Wresponsible for that project) from
accusations of being power-trippy was this: *I* didn't decide on the style
guide. (I did get to do 'casting vote' if two factions couldn't make up
their minds.) A new phrase got passed to the group by e-mail. It was agreed
to, sometimes discussed and rewritten, and occasionally argued over in
person. The writer who spotted the need for a new phrase for the style guide
was the one responsible for coming up with a standard phrase - which
everyone else then got to comment on. If you wanted to suggest a change to
the style guide, anyone working on the project could do so: just send round
an e-mail explaining the change and the reason (and why it mattered enough
that we should do a search and replace through X number of RTF files...)

It has been noticed that schoolchildren are much less reluctant to wear
school uniforms if *they* get to decide on what the school uniform is.

Jane Carnall
Technical Writer, Digital Bridges, Scotland
Unless stated otherwise, these opinions are mine, and mine alone.


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RE: Individual vs. Departmental Writer's Voice: From: Douglas S. Bailey (AL)

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