Secretary proofing manuals?

Subject: Secretary proofing manuals?
From: "Hart, Geoff" <Geoff-H -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 25 Oct 2001 08:26:31 -0400

A disgruntled Tina Dean reports: <<The technical writers from the different
groups in our company go together and agreed on review procedure/document
process for all of us to follow as a technical writing group. This has never
happen before - in our company, the Windows tech writers did one thing, and
the Unix tech writers did another.>>

Sounds like a pretty good happening in my books. Collaboration and mutual
support is always a good thing.

<<I am very upset and insulted because the "uppers" insist on the executive
assistant proofing all of our manuals before they go out to our customers.
In fact, we have to start including her in our style meetings as well. Am I
just being egotistical? Does anyone else have a similar scenario?>>

The question to ask yourself is why management imposed this on you. Are you
guys making lots of typographical errors? Do you lack any form of peer
review or other quality control? Do the managers want to have some input
into your work, but don't have the time to do it personally? Are your styles
all over the map, with no consistency between writers or groups of writers?
If you know why this situation arose, you can start thinking about what (if
anything) to do about it.

Is the EA a particularly gifted proofreader? fwiw, a good many editors and
techwhirlers (including several gifted friends) got their start as EAs, in
part because many EAs come to the job with very good writing and editing
skills. The woman you're talking about may also provide a very valuable
benefit that none of you can provide: she doesn't know the software anywhere
near as well as you do, so she approaches it with more of a naive viewpoint,
and can find problems that none of you will ever find. Trust
me--overfamiliarity with a topic makes it much harder to pick up these
problems, and someone new to the topic can be a valuable asset--if you let
her. Welcome her into the team and see what she can add! If she doesn't add
anything, you could always demonstrate this later and ask that she no longer

And a bonus for your inner Machievelli: If she really does have a manager's
confidence, then you've now got a spy in the corridors of power who can
report back to you on what management is thinking about your group, not to
mention someone who can whisper suggestions in the manager's ear at
judicious moments. How you use that power is up to you... <g>

--Geoff Hart, FERIC, Pointe-Claire, Quebec
geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca
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