SUMMARY: If You Were Gonna Teach...

Subject: SUMMARY: If You Were Gonna Teach...
From: Tom Murrell <trmurrell -at- yahoo -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 8 Mar 2002 07:54:14 -0800 (PST)

This is a summary of the comments I received from TECHWR-L in answer to the
question: ?If you were going to teach a write course to your Subject Matter
Experts, what would you stress?? As you will see, the responses I received were
interesting, varied, and sometimes contradictory.

I think the variety and even contradictory nature of the responses reflect the
different challenges writers in different industries and parts of the world
face. Just as there is no simple definition of what a Technical Writer is, so
too TWs work in a variety of environments on a plethora of products and
services, each with its own challenges and opportunities. So this Summary
reflects the wide variety of issues Technical Writers deal with in their daily

I have tried to organize and simplify the suggestions for ease of presentation
here. I realize that some of my categorization is arbitrary. My apologies if
you feel I over-simplified or mis-categorized your ideas. The numbers in
parenthesis after certain items indicate how many people have identical or
similar suggestions.


Use Examples of Good and Bad (This has such a general consensus that counting
seemed unnecessary.)

Avoid teaching grammar (5)

Difference Between Active and Passive Voice (4)

Teach Basic Grammar (subject/verb agreement, Subject-Verb-Object, and certain
Usage issues) (3)

Explain Basic Punctuation and Rules for Using each. (3)

Avoid or Explain acronyms. Explain the differences among company argot,
industry jargon, and Plain English (3)

Check your Spelling (2)

Use of grammar checking software

Stress the importance of writing in Present Tense

Use Imperative Case for Instructions

Content Organization, use of bulleted lists, outlines. (8)

Clarity: ?One idea, one sentence. One sentence, one idea.? (5)

Teach how to improve content (2)

Focus on Audience (2)

The Difference between Formal and Informal Communications.

Explain Legal Requirements for Content, as applicable to your industry

Use of Styles (2)

Don?t teach the use of Styles

Give Them Copies of ?Strunk & White? or Joseph Williams? ?Style: Ten Lessons in
Clarity and Grace or ?Writing With Precision by Jefferson Bates.?

Teach the Corporate Style Manual

Find out what they want to know and give them that. Also, find out what they
need, and give them that. (2)

One space after a period

Design more useable templates. (4)

Finally, my thanks to the following TECHWR-LERS who contributed their time and
ideas to this thread. They are, in no particular order: Rev Simon Rumble, Scott
Wilborne, Jan Henning, Nora von Gerichten, Jane Carnall, Martin Page, Keith
Cronin, Sarah Kampman, Karen E. Black, Kevin Christy, Steven Brown, David M.
Brown, Marguerite Krupp, Gregory Sweet, Salette Latas, Geoff Hart, Meg Halter,
Catherine Ednie, Harry Thompson, Walden Miller, Marie C. Paretti, Jeff Hanvey,
Margaret Beilby, Virginia Kathleen Eaton, and Suzanne Townsend. As I tried to
say to each of you privately, thank you for taking the time and sharing your
perspectives. I appreciate it.

Tom Murrell
mailto:tmurrell -at- columbus -dot- rr -dot- com
Personal Web Page -
Page Last Updated 02/27/02
--I'm a Tech Writer, dammit, not an Engineer!--

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