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

Subject: Re: Theory vs. Practice (was: What's a TW etc...)
From: Bruce Byfield <bbyfield -at- axionet -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 27 Feb 2002 10:40:33 -0800

Charles E Vermette wrote:

* 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)

From a hard-headed business viewpoint, you're undoubtedly right.

However, while I aim to please a client, I'm even more concerned about living about to my own expectations. So far as I'm concerned, if a client is pleased with my work and I'm coasting along, I'm cheating the client. The fact that the client doesn't know that he or she is being cheated doesn't change the basic fact. In my own eyes, I'm being dishonest.

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.)
My objection isn't to editing as such. If you're hired as an editor, there's nothing wrong if all you do is edit - although if you're hired as a copy editor, you better learn something about the subject quickly. A skilled editor does valuable work, and editing is part of the completion of any writing job.

The ethical conflict comes when you're hired to write, but all you do is basic editing. If you do that, you're misrepresenting yourself, and not giving the client what you should.

For example, an alleged writer once told me that they worked on an API document by copying and pasting comments from the source code, then asking the developers for an example. This single comment was enough for me to lose all respect for the supposed writer. They went on to be active in the STC, and no doubt pass for a prominent tech-writer nowadays, but, so far as I'm concerned, this person is a cheat and a flawed human being. They're living a lie.

**The client** defines the value added - not you or I.
This is capitalism.

Unfortunately, this doesn't help me. I participate in a capitalist system to survive, but at heart I'm a bourgeois anarchist. True, that means that I get all the good music, but it also means defining values for myrself. ;-)

Bruce Byfield 604.421.7177 bbyfield -at- axionet -dot- com

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Theory vs. Practice (was: What's a TW etc...): From: Charles E Vermette

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