RE: A "new understanding" about tech pubs

Subject: RE: A "new understanding" about tech pubs
From: "Suzanne Chiles" <suzchiles -at- pobox -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Sat, 7 Dec 2002 16:14:47 -0800

A very good post, Andrew. I agree with you almost completely.

But I must disagree with your calling it a "new understanding." I've been in
this business since 1987, and all of the items you list have been not only
my understanding of the role of the technical writer, but have been the
expectations of my employers as well.

Gaining a deep understanding of the products I work on is the very first
step for me on any project. I can't write good documentation unless I
understand the product completely. I go to the engineering meetings to learn
the product and I go to the marketing meetings to understand what the
customers want to do with the product. I talk with the sales staff to find
out what they're promising the customer. This understanding ALWAYS pays off
for me. I wouldn't want to work any other way.

I'll grant that there are writers who don't work like this, but I've only
met one or two of them. Most of the writers I've worked with have been
professional and worked much like I do.

I also agree with you about FrameMaker et. al. being tools, and
understanding how to use them should be a given. Knowing how to create
effective templates to present the information we write should also be a
given. It's one part of the value we bring to our projects.

What I would also like to say is that anyone who drops in and reads this
mailing list might have the impression that we spend a lot of time thinking
about formatting, fonts, etc. and not much else. Yes, it's nice to be able
to kick things around with other writers, to get other opinions on these
matters. Many of us are lone writers and don't have any other writers to
talk with. So we chit chat here. But I don't think you can therefore
extrapolate that all we're doing is agonizing over fonts and formatting.
Techwr-L is not an appropriate venue for discussing deep technical issues
about the products we write about. For that we talk with our developers or
go to other mailing lists that discuss that particular technology. I believe
it's a very dangerous assumption to think that whatever we writers are
talking about on this list are the things that we are spending the most time
on at work.

Suzanne Chiles

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A "new understanding" about tech pubs: From: Andrew Plato

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