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Has it already been 6 months? This debate is back again? <g> You can't
succeed as a technical writer without one skill, but you can really shine if
you possess a second skill:
Indispensible: if you can't write clearly and accurately, you're wasting
your time and the reader's. I've been working as a well-paid technical
editor for going on 20 years now because most real experts either can't
write coherent sentences that anyone else can understand, or are skilled
writers who hate the job of writing so much that they'll pay almost any
price to have someone else do the work. Expertise alone isn't enough.
Really useful: If you understand the subject matter, you have an invaluable
ability that someone who doesn't understand the subject lacks: you can
detect holes in the documentation (missing details) and can catch errors in
logic or fact that someone less knowledgeable might not catch. Something can
be perfectly logical--but wrong. Something can be well written but
incomplete--enough so that it prevents someone from accomplishing the task.
The best technical writers (and editors) possess both skills, but if it
comes to an either/or decision, only the ability to write is truly
necessary. Good peer review and technical review can compensate for your
lack of technical knowledge, particularly in the early stages of your career
with an employer.
--Geoff Hart, geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca
Forest Engineering Research Institute of Canada
580 boul. St-Jean
Pointe-Claire, Que., H9R 3J9 Canada
"Wisdom is one of the few things that look bigger the further away it
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