Re: What's A TW Got To DO To Get A Job Around Here?!

Subject: Re: What's A TW Got To DO To Get A Job Around Here?!
From: Andrew Plato <intrepid_es -at- yahoo -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Sun, 24 Feb 2002 15:02:57 -0800 (PST)

"Melody Akins" wrote...

> If writing is a form of communication, and the gobbledygook spouting from
> the lips of some scientific, medical, or engineering SME, needs to be
> translated into normalhuman, then 'reprocessing text from an SME' is
> definitely writing, and TECHNICAL writing at that!

No it isn't. That is editing. WRITING means to learn a topic, understand it,
then write something from the ground up about that topic.

In fact, being able to translate technical gobblygook takes very specialized
knowledge of a topic because you have to interpret the concepts in one
environment to the concepts of another.

For decades now, organizations and some "tech writers" have tried to push this
idea that a skilled writer does not need any "content skills." That all the
content issues could be shuffled off to SMEs and the writer could remain
blissfully ignorant, focusing instead on drafting templates and consternating
over gerunds. I point the finger, as usual, at STC which beats this idea into
members telling them they are accomplished technical writers when they have no
technical skills and don't actually write anything. They just maintain
documents, apply styles, reformat text, maybe clean up English here and there.

Writers, WRITE. That means they learn about a topic and then write about it
pulling from their own knowledge as well as reference sources (such as SMEs).
People who reprocess text from SMEs are editors, desktop publishers,
"documentation specialists" or some other trade - but they are absolutely NOT

> Having worked from the 'clerical end,' in attempting to transcribe the notes
> of a forensic psychiatrist (definitely a subject matter expert), I can tell
> you that KNOWING something, and being able to produce an end product that is
> understandable to its intended audience (in this case, 'normalhumans'), are
> two vastly different things.

That is illogical. Based on what you just said - you can be totally ignorant of
a topic but still communicate perfectly with an audience about that topic?

Sorry, that's impossible. You cannot communicate effectively if you don't
understand what you're communicating.

> I completely agree that technical writers will benefit from picking a niche
> and learning the (don't hit me, please!) 'lingua franca' spoken therein.
> One of the best ways to do this is from the 'clerical' end.

Possibly, but knowing jargon and editing English is not the same as writing. To
write something, you have to start with nothing, learn about the topic, and
then build a document. If you are handed a pre-thought-out paper that merely
needs some editing - you're not writing anything. You're just cleaning up
somebody else's work. That is what clerks and secretaries do.

> By the way, an experienced executive secretary earns more per annum than a
> newly-minted PhD, if money is an issue. The reason for this is that a good
> secretary can COMMUNICATE--can a new PhD?

An executive secretary also will become trapped at a certain income point and
has extremely limited career opportunities. Whereas a PhD will have virtually
unlimited income potential over his/her life.

Andrew Plato

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Re: What's A TW Got To DO To Get A Job Around Here?!: From: Melody Akins

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