Re: How are technical writers perceived?

Subject: Re: How are technical writers perceived?
From: Andrew Plato <intrepid_es -at- yahoo -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Sat, 16 Mar 2002 17:16:09 -0800 (PST)

Yawn...another day, another rant.

"Bonnie Granat" wrote...

> 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.

I think you're putting the horse before the cart. You cannot write clearly
about something you do not understand. Therefore, technical knowledge must
exist before the writer can hope to communicate effectively. The more you know
about something, the better equipped you are to communicate about it.

This is why the best trainers and managers are older, highly experienced
people. Their experience lets them communicate the relevant information more

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

A technical writer is primarily two things...technical and a writer. To lack in
either area is a lacking as a whole.

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

People laugh at docs for many reasons. It is usually because the information
presented does not make sense. And that is because the person behind the word
processor or single-source engine did not have the intelligence or experience
to realize that the information they were publishing was nonsensical.

The other reason people laugh at docs is because they are worthless. Worthless
docs come from ignorant minds and poor content management. A perfect example of
this would be a recent product document I read. Exquisite template, clear
English, world class single-source techniques used....but they forgot to
mention that in order for the product to be useful, you have to connect it to a
mirror port on a switch. DOH! The doc is worthless. It failed to communicate a
critical nibble of information, leaving me the reader to fill in the blanks.

For all the "clear and concise" writing work put into the document, the
document was worthless because it communicated incomplete information.

Andrew Plato

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