Re: Parroting? Not!

Subject: Re: Parroting? Not!
From: Bruce Byfield <bbyfield -at- axionet -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 06 Mar 2002 12:14:07 -0800

Hart, Geoff wrote:

Several folks have mentioned the value of "parroting", but I'll step in as
word geek and point out that this isn't the word we're looking for. Parrots
blindly repeat words with little or no evidence that they have any idea what
they're saying. That's hardly a way to gain the respect of an SME; parrot
back their words and they'll eventually start feeding you crackers rather
than useful information.

Since I live with four parrots, I can't resist mentioning that parrots actually do understand what they're saying. In fact, Irene Pepperberg's studies suggest that at least some parrots are capable of using language at about the level of a two or three year old human being. Do a search for "Irene Pepperberg" on Google, and you should be able to find some of the relevant information - after some of the fiascos with primate language studies in the Seventies, Pepperberg has been very careful in her experimental design.

But, as much as I love talking about parrots, the point isn't just to be pedantic but to correct the analogy to support Geoff's comments. The parrots in Pepperberg's study show their grasp of language by transferring concepts like "gray" or "round" to objects other than the ones used to teach them the subject, and by using them appropriately to ask for things. Similarly, tech-writers need to show developers that they are grappling with the concepts by trying to make connections and asking questions that show that they understand the concepts. Or, to put it another way, they need to show that they're engaged with subject matter - if not personally, at least professionally. Developers don't expect writers to know everything they know, but most of them will be much friendlier with writers who show that they're trying to understand.

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

"For they marry and go, as the world rolls back,
They marry and vanish and die
But their spirit shall live on the outside track
As long as they years go by."
-Henry Lawson, "The Outside Track"

Check it out! Get some cool freebies when you buy RoboHelp! You'll receive
SnagIt screen capture software and a 10% discount voucher for RoboHelp
Consulting. This special offers expires March 29, 2002.
You are currently subscribed to techwr-l as: archive -at- raycomm -dot- com
To unsubscribe send a blank email to leave-techwr-l-obscured -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com
Send administrative questions to ejray -at- raycomm -dot- com -dot- Visit for more resources and info.

Parroting? Not!: From: Hart, Geoff

Previous by Author: How Much Editing of Graphics Do You Do?
Next by Author: Re: Technical subjects: What do you want to know more about?
Previous by Thread: Parroting? Not!
Next by Thread: Re: Parroting? Not!

What this post helpful? Share it with friends and colleagues:

Sponsored Ads