RE: New TECHWR-L Poll Question

Subject: RE: New TECHWR-L Poll Question
From: "Christensen, Kent" <lkchris -at- sandia -dot- gov>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 9 Oct 2001 11:17:59 -0600

re: I'm not at all sure that just _being_ a technical writer is sufficient
qualification to decide that whatever one feels like doing is a sufficient
standard for what constitutes clear and effective technical
communication--whether written or graphic. (Dick Margulis)

Dicks' whole post adds more to this discussion and I'll try to do that, too.

Clearly the poll queries individuals and "whatever one feels like doing"
implies the action of an individual as well. But, despite the all-to-easy
common criticisms of "committees" and the like, I'd suggest anyway that
perhaps the best technical writing comes from group processes. Groups here
would mean both writer teams but also the "teams" of editors and most
importantly user group guinea pigs that would test our drafts.

Dick is concerned (I agree) about any assumption "that the practitioner
knows what is clear and effective, outside the standard rules." In my work
documenting products for military use it may be easier because the rule that
can't be violated is that the user can only do what the manual specifically
permits and that is determined by the engineer/designer. It's the writers'
job to transcribe this, and then there are joint meetings to actually run
through the processes and decide whether the draft manual is acceptable.
Use of language, while certainly secondary, is never exempt from this review
process. Clearly it's likely not so simple for consumer products, but in
either case it seems unlikely that a single writer decides much of anything.
Whether this occurs up front or via "I don't get it" feedback from users
once the product is in their hands seems the question. From either method,
I believe, will come pressure toward conventional usages.

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