RE: Advice, please

Subject: RE: Advice, please
From: "Beilby, Margaret" <MBeilby -at- ebuilt -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 19 Sep 2001 13:48:42 -0700

I've been in this business 20 years as both a technical writer and a

<<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. . .Betty has a reputation in her office as being
defensive, argumentative, incompetent, and stubborn.>>

Even if you can help her improve her writing skills, the very fact that she
already has such a reputation would make it almost impossible for her to
work with the people in her office. Unfortunately, problems like being
disrespectful to people need to be "nipped in the bud." IMHO, there is never
any excuse for rudeness or mistreating other people. If you can't take
constructive criticism, then you shouldn't be in this business.

<<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. I did an extensive editing job and sent them back with very
explicit instructions about what to change and why. >>

You did the right thing in giving her a chance. It's unfortunate that the
previous manager's evaluation was correct.

<<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


Do you really want to put up with this? The problem is compounded because
you are trying to manage her from a remote location. She apparently doesn't
take you seriously. If you have the support of your boss (and it sounds like
you do), I would get rid of her now. I wouldn't waste my time. I had to
learn this the hard way. I had a writer with 13 years of experience (on her
resume) that just simply couldn't do the work (my Jr. writer with three
years of experience was much, much better). I kept trying to work with her
and found that she simply didn't care. I finally relized that there wasn't
any way this person was ever going to change or meet the standards required
by my documentation department. I just wish I had wasted all the time and
energy worrying about it.

Good luck,

Margaret Beilby
Sr. Technical Writer
eBuilt, Inc.
mbeilby -at- ebuilt -dot- com


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