Re: He said...She said...He said...etc. (Was Re: What's A TW Got To DO To Get A Job Around Here?!)

Subject: Re: He said...She said...He said...etc. (Was 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 21:19:46 -0800 (PST)

--- Melody Akins <melodyakins -at- hotmail -dot- com> wrote:

<meta-argument snippage>

> Must we all 'become' doctors, or scientists, or engineers, or software
> designers, in order to write in those fields?

Yes, to some extent. You need to know the topic. If you?re going to write about
programming, you had better understand programming and be a bit of a
programmer. Not a expert one, but you have to have some skill in doing the
work.

How could you possibly write a user manual, for example, for a programming tool
if you didn't understand how to program? Sure, you could do the work, but
without any programming skills, you would have absolutely no way to evaluate
what information was relevant, useful, or accurate. In this case, why would
your employer even have a writer? If the SME has to write up everything and
contribute all the content, why have a writer at all? The SME is doing all the
"writing."

<more meta-argument snippage>

> (No again, Andrew;
> technical writers need to do some 'review of the literature' type research
> on the topic, so they will understand ENOUGH to know if a phrase or word is
> being incorrectly used, or if the context is in need of amplification--and
> if amplification is needed, to go to the designer / developer / engineer /
> scientist / whomever, for clarification. Granted that, the more experience
> in a given area TWs have, the less often they will have to go to the
> 'source' for an OK on the amplification.)

What you describe would qualify a person to edit other people?s work. It would
not qualify them to independently write documentation from the ground up.

>(No, Andrew, technical writers are not
> NECESSARILY qualified to write 'from the ground up' about anything. I think
> you are confusing TWs with NON-FICTION writers, who surely must have some
> depth of knowledge in their choice of topics. TWs must submit their writing
> to the scrutiny of the person or persons who ORIGINATED the SUBJECT MATTER
> about which they are writing; the only person or persons to whom an
> ORIGINATOR need submit his/her writing, are paycheck-writers and
> editors/publishers.)

I think you are confusing the meaning of the words WRITE and EDIT.

In my book, the word "writer" means a person who composes written work. Thus a
technical writer is a person who composes technically oriented work.

Its really quite simple -

1. If you structure a document, lay out the topics, and compose the text:
you're a writer.

2. If you take another person's work and reformat it, edit it, improve the
language, or apply styles to it: you're an editor.

You can call yourself whatever you want - a tree for that matter. It doesn't
change reality.

Yes, a good technical writer is a non-fiction writer. The two jobs are
essentially the same.

Andrew Plato

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