Re: What Would You Do with a Writer Who Can't Write?

Subject: Re: What Would You Do with a Writer Who Can't Write?
From: Bruce Byfield <bbyfield -at- axionet -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 28 Apr 2003 19:24:02 -0700

Doug Duplessis wrote:

I'm working with a writer who doesn't seem to know how to write.

I sympathize. A sample from one of the documents I've inherited in my most recent contract:

"The XXX interface is the feature that interfaces with the YYY interface."

I'm not sure how or if I should go to management--is it a contractor's "place" to bring things like this up?

That might depend on your sense of responsibility and the length of your contract. If you feel that the writer in question is cheating the company by not giving it what it pays him for, or that such a writer cheapens the profession, then you have every right to bring up the issue, no matter what your status is. However, if you're leaving soon, then maybe the effort isn't worthwhile. Poor writers are everywhere, and you can't go after all of them -not if you still want to do your own job.

Also, be sure that you don't simply want to pay the writer back for getting a job you might have had, or that you only want to take revenge for some of the frustration you feel. Too much of this kind of motive would be unworthy to act upon, and might prevent you from exercising the diplomacy that you'll need to exercise.

Which brings up another question: can you exercise the necessary diplomacy? If not, you might do better to keep silent. You might only make yourself look small.

I don't want to go behind his back, and I don't want to show up in a manager's office with a stack of evidence.

Why not call a meeting that includes him? This will require even greater heights of diplomacy from you, but if you can focus on this as a problem (for example, by mentioning that your edits aren't being accepted, so a better system for editing is needed), you might pull it off.

I should mention that there is no documentation manager; we're managed by an overtasked development manager who thinks technical writers just "pretty up" things. (His words.)

If that is so, then maybe nobody notices the poor documentation, so there's no point raising the issue.

As you can probably tell, I think there's something to be said for whistle-blowing and something to be said for keeping silent. It's hard to know what's best for you, but I hope my various comments will give you some points to consider, or perhaps enforce your own feelings on the subject.

Bruce Byfield bbyfield -at- axionet -dot- com 604.421.7177

"Robin Hood and Little John,
They've both gone to the fair-o,
We shall to the merry greenwood
To hunt the buck and hare-o."
- Traditional

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What Would You Do with a Writer Who Can't Write?: From: Doug Duplessis

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