FW: What is our art?

Subject: FW: What is our art?
From: "Wilcox, Rose (ZB5646)" <Rose -dot- Wilcox -at- pinnaclewest -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 20 Feb 2002 11:37:50 -0700

--- Rev Simon Rumble <simon -at- rumble -dot- net> wrote:
> On Tue 19 Feb, John Posada bloviated thus:
> > I tell people I'm the "idiot's advocate". I explain things to the
> > idiot that the smart people already know. I used this just
> > yesterday.
> While this is amusing and makes a good sound bite, I'm not a fan of
> this explanation. It has a nasty habit of becoming the way you
> view your readers.

I'm not a fan of the explanation either; although I can see it would be
useful in the context that John uses it. However, not only might it give a
wrong impression of an audience, it is not an accurate description of all
tech writing jobs. I write documents meant for people of various levels of
knowledge. The "lowest common denominator" in an audience of techies might
be a college grad who has English as a second language. They are smart, but
need clear, simple language and need new terminology defined.
This saying may be useful when "battling" development teams and management
for the lowest common denominator in the end-user community, but if taken
out of context, it could actually hurt communication by insulting the
audience. In addition, there is an issue about not taking documentation
down too far. We may, if not careful in our audience analysis, lose the
majority of our audience if we write "down" to them.
That said, I do respect John Posada as a writer and member of this group
very much. Not liking his saying is no reflection on how I feel about him.
Merci beaucoup,
Rose A. Wilcox
Project Office / Power Trading
Communication Specialist / Technical Writer
Rose -dot- Wilcox -at- PinnacleWest -dot- com

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