Theory vs. Practice (was: What's a TW etc...)

Subject: Theory vs. Practice (was: What's a TW etc...)
From: Charles E Vermette <cvermette -at- juno -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 27 Feb 2002 09:50:15 -0500

Bruce Byfield wrote:

<<<It seems to me that, in the long term, working without a reasonable
understanding of the subject means accepting mediocrity and dependency. I
can't work that way for very long without being frustrated and condemning
myself as a cheat. Nor can I understand why so many writers are
apparently content to coast along in this half-speed way. Even if their
identity isn't wholly bound up with being writer, I can't help wondering
why they aren't more worried about giving honest value...For me, it's not
just a matter of collecting a pay cheque. It's a matter of

Bruce, this was one of the most insightful and moving posts I've read on
Techwr-l, and emotionally I agree with you 100%. My only concern with
what you've said relates to your preface - i.e., the difference between
theory and practice. Specifically:

* Tech Writing *is* , first and foremost, a matter of collecting a pay
check, and:
* "Honest Value" is defined by the person(s) signing that paycheck
(whether it be a client or employer)

If one is doing the best job they can under the client/employers
parameters - and the client/employer feels they are adding value - there
is nothing dishonest. Sometimes that means creating something from
scratch; sometimes it means cleaning up source material; sometimes it
means taking a Word doc and "adding commas here and there" (as one
techwrler put it.) *The client* defines the value added - not you or I.
This is capitalism. I've been with the same bank for 26 years, and
they've never asked me whether my deposit was earned by writing content
or repositioning it:)

Don't get me wrong:

* I am *not* advocating "coasting along". I agree completely that content
is king and that understanding your subject matter is critical. Those who
*are* content to coast along will eventually find their value diminished
- that's market discipline coming into play.

* I'm also not advocating misrepresenting one's talents and limitations,
doing the minimum required, or not fighting for best practices and the
integrity of our craft. I'm only pointing out the reality that the client
can veto our opinions and standards at any time by not signing the check
(the golden rule - whoever has the gold makes the rules.)

Let's not kid ourselves - our primary audience is the person signing the
check. We don't reach the end user without them. They determine was the
"value added" is. Try running a business without acknowledging this and
see what happens.

To quote Issac Asimov: "Never let your sense of morality prevent you from
doing what's right."


Charles E. Vermette
85 Washington Park Drive, Norwell MA 02061
e-mail: cvermette -at- juno -dot- com

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