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

Subject: Re: 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: Thu, 27 Feb 2003 00:17:53 -0500


I don't do tricks, but you can see a snippet from a much larger work at http://www.agnewcom.com/portfolio.html. Use the live link halfway down the page. I spent about 2 weeks with some SMEs, and have had no geological training. This content was good enough to be credible with visiting PhDs in geoscience.

I must say I'm astonished that this seems to be such a foreign notion to so many people on the list. I suppose if you are truly not convinced that it is possible to write competently about a subject without being an expert in it, then you will dismiss any such writing as inferior. Doing so, you invalidate the many excellent technical communicators who achieve this very thing day in and day out.

The expert is often the worst person to write about their subject, because they no longer see it with the naivete of the new user.
Hence the manuals that leave out crucial steps because "tsk, everyone _knows_ you're supposed to do X before Y". Remember all those unusable manuals in the early days of computers? Written by computer experts, not communication experts.

The best thing about this profession is the broad range of practitioner it embraces. It is inclusive rather than exclusive; no matter where you are on the continuum from writer to technician, you can find a place as a technical communicator. Obviously, some jobs will require a greater degree of subject matter knowledge than others. But to say you must adhere to a narrow and one-sided definition of professional preparation lest you be branded incompetent denigrates our peers and diminishes us all.

Many of use have worked tirelessly to educate employers to this very fact: you do not need to be an expert in the subject matter to be able to write intelligently about it.
--Beth

Matthew Horn wrote:

Beth wrote:

Any good technical communicator can write competently about any subject.


Beth, I would love some specific examples of excellent, useful, informed, insightful documentation without having intimate knowledge of the subject matter.

I am not trying to be a wise-guy, but I am trying to figure out how you came to your conclusions.

Matthew J. Horn
Sr. Technical Writer
< m a c r o m e d i a >

--
Beth Agnew
Professor, Technical Communication
Seneca College of Applied Arts & Technology
Toronto, ON 416.491.5050 x3133
http://www.agnewcom.com




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RE: Have to know Programming to be able to write about it? -- NO: From: Matthew Horn

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