Re: Are you a writer?

Subject: Re: Are you a writer?
From: Andrew Plato <intrepid_es -at- yahoo -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 27 Feb 2002 21:29:53 -0800 (PST)

Sella wrote a perfect description writing vs editing.

I think I need a technical writer to translate my essays on technical writing.

Sella has the job.

Andrew Plato

----- Original Message -----

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.

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