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This argument has been hashed repeatedly on this list - the argument of how
much subject matter knowledge a writer needs to do his/her job.
Some people contend that since the guidelines for writing good documentation
is the same no matter what your field, the writer can go from job to job and
not really need to learn the specifics of the technology. There is
something to this, since not having specific industry knowledge does help
the writer to pick up gaps in the documentation - especially those places
where basic knowledge is assumed (for example, assuming that a user knows
what "right click" means). These writers insist that good research skills
and good interviewing skills can overcome any gaps in knowledge.
There's another camp that believes that writers can't really do their jobs
unless they know their subject. Not knowing the subject leads to gaps in the
documentation, since the writer isn't aware of intermediate steps, and might
not pick up on those steps in the research.
I am in a third camp - a combination of the two. I believe that basic
knowledge of the job is necessary, and that good research skills and
interviewing skills help me to do my job. It is not necessary that I become
an expert in the matter, since I have experts all around me. It is my job to
find the right questions to ask.
However, I fully recognize that there are times when the writer needs to be
an expert - there is no "standard" level of understanding that applies to
every type of writing job out there: corporate environment, managerial
style, SME cooperation, and many other factors can dictate more or less
necessity in understanding.
> I'm asking this in all seriousness:
> Janice Gelb wrote:
> Some people even argue that in some circumstances (mostly end-user
products) it's better if editors *don't* have extensive knowledge of the
subject matter as they then are more likely to approach the material as a
> Huh? Really? I don't get it. Could anyone who actually believes this
please send me an email explaining the reasoning behind such a thing? And
I'm not asking for the sardonic explanation, I really want to understand why
someone would think this
> FYI, this is not a stab at Janice, I was just surprised by this one
statement. Yes, it's taken out of context, but the statement should be able
to stand on its own. :-)
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