How are technical writers perceived?

Subject: How are technical writers perceived?
From: "Bonnie Granat" <bgranat -at- editors-writers -dot- info>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Sat, 16 Mar 2002 14:52:06 -0500

Everybody laughs at jokes about software manuals and other documentation.

I would suggest that they do not laugh because of the fact that the
technical material is accurate.

No. Not at all.

They are not laughing at the fact that the writer seems to know what a
network connectivity doobie is and tells the reader (or seems to be telling
the reader) that choosing the correct network connectivity doobie in step 1
can make or break the functioning of the gwapazie pingjerb. No, they are not
laughing at how well the technical writer understands these things.

We all know why they laugh. You know why they laugh -- and I know why they
laugh -- because you and I are among them, sometimes laughing so hard that
we come to a new realization of why "Laughter is the best medicine".

You and I and everyone else laughs at the obvious incompetency of the writer
to communicate ideas clearly -- or to even abide by the standard use of the
English language. That always gets the laughs. Note that I am not here
talking about documentation that is machine-translated without further
editing, such as the famous Sony product line.

Therefore, I submit that while thorough and complete knowledge of the
immediate subject about which one is writing is crucial, the more important
skill for a technical writer is the ability to write clearly and logically.

Technical knowledge is secondary. To make technical knowledge primary is to
not recognize that the source of amusement in "manual jokes" is the
unprofessional writing.

Again, while the technical writer must fully and completely understand his
or her immediate subject and its relationship to other technology, that
knowledge is what is being conveyed to the reader, and an inability to
convey that information well makes all that technical knowledge...well,
truly laughable.

A technical writer is primarily a writer, not a technical expert.

I further submit that those who would seek to make nontechnical writers feel
inadequate as technical writers are those who probably shouldn't be in the

Why? Because they are the chief reason you and I and the rest of the
literate world laugh.

Bonnie Granat

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How are technical writers perceived?: From: edahlquist

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