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From: Andrew Plato
Sent: Thursday, May 08, 2003 6:09 PM
>> "Mark Baker" <> wrote in message news:197380 -at- techwr-l -dot- -dot- -dot-
>> The myth of the ignorant editor and the myth of the ignorant writer are
>> derived from the myth of the ignorant user. ...<snip>...
> I agree. There is absolutely no reason specialized software documentation
> should have basic Windows user-interface instructions. If user's don't
> know how to right-click, then send them a copy of that video professor. No
> technical writer at a software firm should be documenting at that low of
> a level.
I think it depends entirely on the software and its target audience.
When I write technical training for complex technology, I absolutely agree -
the ignorant user isn't my audience, and I write the training with certain
assumptions about the knowledge of the target audience.
But when I get a contract to write docs/help/training/whatever for a
"newbie" end-user audience (and yes, there are still "tech-newbies" out
there), I have to make an entirely different set of assumptions about what
they may or may not know, and adjust the training to that audience. There
have been times when I've recommended prerequisite training to establish a
baseline (and times when I've been contracted to create that baseline
> But, people need to keep (and justify) their jobs...so they doc what they
Harsh. Probably true in some cases, but way to broad a generalization IMHO.
When I started, my only knowledge of "routers" was in the context of
woodworking tools. But I learned enough about network routers to write
useful installation&configuration instructions. Same with e-commerce
development tools. Same with ERP systems. Same with accounting packages.
etc., etc., and so forth. And I'd be willing to bet that a large percentage
of the writers on this list (and - dare I say it - even many STC members) go
to a great deal of effort to expand their knowledge in order to make
themselves better technical writers. But, unless I miss my guess, most of
us aren't in a position to say "I'm going to learn about [fill in the blank]
so I can become a good tech writer in that field." It's probably something
more like "I have an opportunity to work with/write about [fill in the
blank], which is a new topic/one I'm a little rusty on/used differently here
than I'm familiar with. Guess it's back to the books!"
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