Have to know Programming to be able to write about it? -- NO

Subject: Have to know Programming to be able to write about it? -- NO
From: "Beth Agnew" <Beth -dot- Agnew -at- senecac -dot- on -dot- ca>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 25 Feb 2003 16:10:14 -0800

A student on this list wrote me with a question prompted by discussion
around the Educational Opportunities to Pursue thread. Someone stated that a
writer without programming knowledge is going to be less competent to write
about programming than one who is also a programmer.
The student wondered if it was necessary to take programming in addition to
a technical communication program.

Absolutely not. Any global statement such as "if you don't know X, you can't
write about it" is inherently incorrect. Any good technical communicator can
write competently about any subject. It is part of our profession to rapidly
learn what we need to know about a new technology in order to convey
information about it to our audience. By the same token, we don't need to be
geologists to write about geoscience, or MDs to be able to write about

We DO however need the ability to analyze, comprehend, and communicate in
the appropriate way, the necesssary information about that subject. This
means we also need good interviewing skills to elicit information from our
SMEs. We do not need to BE the SMEs.

We need to be continual learners. But that doesn't mean we need to take
formal education or training in every discipline we encounter. Learning
occurs in many ways.

And needless to say, we also need critical thinking skills to evaluate and
question what we read.

Beth Agnew
Professor, Technical Communication
Seneca College of Applied Arts & Technology
Toronto, ON 416-491-5050 x3133


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