RE: Are you a writer?

Subject: RE: Are you a writer?
From: "Sella Rush" <srush -at- MusicNet -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 27 Feb 2002 19:30:27 -0800

You got lost by assuming that content applies to a mere list of facts rather than an organized written presentation of those facts.

SMEs provide facts. Sometimes they provide these facts as written material, sometimes as a set of notes such as in a readme file, sometimes verbally or in a set of emails or responses to questions.

If a tech writer does a simple copyedit of the SME's material, they are editing rather than writing. Depending on the nature and quality of the content, maybe this is all that's required.

If, however, a tech writer is gathering content from multiple sources and integrating it, establishing an overall document organization and theme, *and* writing significant portions of the text (by which I mean more than just the introductory and structural paragraphs), then they are writing.

Where knowledge comes in is in the ability to develop an organization and to write in a style that is useful to the audience. It is important to understand how they are going to use the information you're providing. You need to understand relationships among topics, so that you can mesh related information together in a way that makes sense and is useful to the readers. You need to know what is common knowledge and what topics might be better explained. Andrew's little chart pretty much says it all--put yourself somewhere between a SME and a reader.

With regard to what a writer should know going into a job, this will vary depending on the subject matter and the intended audience. Some subjects are more easily learned than others. Some of us work with very complicated subjects such as network security or web services development; there's a certain base level of knowledge a writer should probably have coming in or be able to pick up very quickly. Others of us work in less demanding (read mindnumbing) fields, or at least are writing for less expert audiences, and so the ramp-up time will be shorter.

Sella Rush
technical writer
srush -at- musicnet -dot- com

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