Advice, please

Subject: Advice, please
From: "Writer Whirler" <a_whirler -at- hotmail -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 19 Sep 2001 14:03:18 -0500

I need some advice, please. I am the sole writer for my group. My group recently merged with another group in another city. That other group has a writer (let's call her Betty), who now reports to me, because Betty's previous manager (who is not a writer) no longer wants to deal with her. Although I haven't seen a resume, she is supposedly an experienced writer (more than 10 yrs experience.) Betty has a reputation in her office as being defensive, argumentative, incompetent, and stubborn. The previous manager told me that she would often take the Betty's work home with her and rewrite it because it was so bad: poorly written, poorly organized, and showing almost no comprehension of the product she was writing about.

We decided to assign Betty to a project to see if her writing skills were really that bad. I sent her a sample user guide document to show her our template, our writing style, etc. and told her to use it for her documents. The first drafts I received from her pretty much confirmed what Betty's previous manager told me. The documents were poorly written and very poorly organized. She used all sorts of styles not in the template, and included highly technical information that had no place in the user guide docs she was writing.

I did an extensive editing job and sent them back with very explicit instructions about what to change and why. We have corresponded only by email, and her attitude overall has been OK; maybe a little defensive here and there, but considering how radically I had to edit her work, maybe a little defensive is understandable. (I'm trying to give her the benefit of the doubt.)

However, I got two of the drafts back this morning, and they are truly awful. A lot of the information I cut she left in. For certain sections (like Logging in) she simply copied those sections from the sample document I sent and changed the application name, with no regard to whether or not the procedure applies to this product (it doesn't.) Her work seems to prove that she lacks a very basic understanding of the product and how to create a task-based document. Plus, the document just looks awful. Screen shots were inserted as floating objects (even though I told her not to do this), so that they end up all over the page (we're using Word). Some even overlap the footers.

My question is this: how much time and effort should I put into trying to get her to improve her work? My boss thinks she is dead weight and I shouldn't have to put so much time into editing (which is true.) But I want to give her every opportunity to improve and conform before I fire her (yes, it will be me.....eeek!), if it comes to that. I think back to when I didn't know what I was doing and someone gave me the chance to get better. However, I really was an inexperienced novice. She's supposed to be a seasoned pro. What would YOU do? Thanks for any and all advice. Please respond to the list.

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