re: Prerequisites for a tech writing career (apologies for digest-delay)

Subject: re: Prerequisites for a tech writing career (apologies for digest-delay)
From: "Barnett, Eva" <Eva -dot- Barnett -at- aketontechnologies -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 21 Dec 2001 10:37:52 -0800

Christine Anameier wrote:

>We see a certain number of questions from newbies on the list, >which
most people try to answer as helpfully and supportively >as
possible--but are we doing the newbies any favors if we
>sidestep the issue of aptitude?

It seems to me that all that's really required is a sincere desire to be
a good tech writer, and the grit to stick with it and work hard.

When I first subscribed to this list a couple of years ago, I was the
quintessential fumbling newbie:

- I had good writing skills, but wrote with an elevated, literary style.
(E.g. I loved using phrases like "from which comes" to avoid ending a
sentence with a preposition. It seemed secondary to me that most people
couldn't understand me; I was grammatically correct after all.)
- I was desperately seeking some miraculous "process" that would ease
the almost-overwhelming task of getting an actual document written.
- I was upset that I had to document a system that wasn't even done yet.
I hated the nasty process of hashing out software requirements-couldn't
someone just decide and then write them out for me?
- I thought high tech stuff was boring and somehow pretentious.

So, I'm sure you can all imagine my horror and chagrin when people like
Andrew and Geoff had the temerity to suggest that it was up to me to
take responsibility for writing good docs, and that I should get off my
duff, do some serious research, then put my nose to the grindstone and
churn out some words!

My point is though, that with only some good-but inappropriately-honed
writing skills going for me, I was able to learn the key elements of
tech writing by reading the excellent advice offered on this list and by
sincerely trying to apply it. I'm not an expert by any means, but I can
now crank out good-enough documentation in the time I'm given to do it.

I share Christine's and Maggie's irritation at people's casual dismissal
of a tech-writer's hard-earned skills ("I took a four week class on tech
writing. Can I have my huge salary now?"). Yet, given my experience, I
have trouble judging someone whether someone else is going to be able to
make it as a tech writer.

So thank you to you kind posters who give kindly-worded (or refreshingly
ascerbic) advice to newbies. I hope you all keep it up!


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