RE: need help with pompous engineer

Subject: RE: need help with pompous engineer
From: Kim Roper <kim -dot- roper -at- vitana -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 14 Feb 2002 16:13:12 -0500

Sarah Thomas noted:

> It doesn't matter
> which one is more correct, the decision on what word to use
> in such a case is
> the responsibility of the tech writing dept not an engineer.
Not necessarily. Usage of a word can and does vary from field to field.
Like it or not, we depend on our SMEs to ensure that our words carry the
proper technical nuances. How many times in the past month have questions
about word specificity appeared on this list?

The engineer thinks he knows better. The tech writer has three choices:
1) Let the engineer determine the usage;
2) Pull rank on the engineer;
3) Explain the usual usage in a calm and professional manner (with
supporting documentation, like CMoS), and ask the engineer if there is a
industry-specific technical usage of this term that might run counter to the
common guidelines and usage.

I'm going to put on my engineer hat for a moment and respond to these
1) "I'm trying to figure out if you're a doormat, you don't know what you're
doing, or you just don't care. Don't you have any pride in your work?"
2) "Now let's see what happens when *you* make a suggestion or ask a
3) "Huhn. That's not how I learned it. I've never heard of the Chicago
Manual of Style. Still, if that's what the standard says ... I'm not
completely convinced, but you think the users will be okay with it ... we
can try it and see how it goes."

Okay, the response to number 3 isn't exactly a gushing sign of respect, but
in my experience, people don't like to admit they're wrong. This goes
triple for professionals. Give the engineer a way to back off graciously,
drop the issue, and if he's smart, he won't bite so hard next time.

Engineering can be a right-or-wrong world much of the time--something works
or it doesn't. We live on an "it depends" planet. It takes some adjustment
to get the two orbiting properly. We *do* need to coexist.

That having been said, if the engineer continues, complain to your manager.
This kind of argument is divisive and a waste of resources for your company.
So are smackdowns.

Cheers ... Kim
kim -dot- roper -at- vitana -dot- com

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