Tech writer as "user"

Subject: Tech writer as "user"
From: "ASUE Tekwrytr" <tekwrytr -at- hotmail -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 20 Aug 2002 15:45:41 -0400

The concept is exceptionally misleading, and widely taught in university classes in "technical writing." The fallacy is that the "user" is assumed to be witless and clueless, so a writer can dumb down basic material to sixth-grade level and call it "technical writing."

Certainly, a few basic manuals and intro software help files may be in that category. Other than that, if you don't understand what you are writing about clearly enough to explain it to a peer or SME, you have no business calling yourself a technical writer.

There are any number of English majors with topnotch secretarial skills who can perform such work for a modest salary and do so quite happily. The only thing that separates a technical writer from a technical secretary is subject knowledge in the field they are documenting.

I suggest that aspiring tech writers spend more time learning calculus, programming--and any other tech subject they can handle--rather than worrying whether they should memorize keyboard shortcuts for FrameMaker or RoboHELP first. There are endless legions of Journalism and English majors to fill those positions, as an alternative to working at Wendy's.

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