Re: What to look for in a technical editor

Subject: Re: What to look for in a technical editor
From: "Brian Das" <brian_das -at- hotmail -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 21 May 2003 13:44:16 -0400

Andrew Plato wrote:

> It also is impossible to effectively collaborate if both parties don't
> common frame of reference. If the engineer only spits out technical
details and
> the writer only talks about styles and fonts - then there really isn't
> collaboration happening.

Good thought. I suppose collaboration requires a common frame of reference.
As a manager, I would hope that more collaboration would lead to less need
for collaboration -- i.e. maybe the engineer would start to understand what
good docs are all about, and/or the writer would start to understand what
the technical subject is all about. I've never seen it happen like that, but
it would be nice if both skill sets broadened. All of a sudden I'd have a
techie who can write and a writer who can tech. Woo hoo!

> We all learned grammar and language skills in grade school. Some people
> obviously better than others at language skills, but every single person
in the
> world who has attended grade school has language and grammar skills. Thus,
> language skills are common and easily acquired.

> > Also, presumably you are writing in your native language. Hence, your
point is
> moot. You're not required to learn or use a foreign language.
> However, this is not the case with, say, database programming. Did you
> about stored procedures in 7th grade? Probably not. Thus, technical skills
> rare and more valuable.

You're mistaking functional literacy with the ability to write clearly and
correctly. People learn to be functionally literate in grade school, just as
they learn basic computing skills. Very few people go on to write clearly
and correctly, or to understand what's happening behind the GUI.

I think we agree on the basic assumption that you can't be a tech writer
without technical skills and language skills. We seem to prioritize them
differently, but hell -- any two people would!

> >
> > I agree with you completely here. Audience analysis -- one of the basic
> > tenets of tech writing -- includes learning about the audience's
> > expertise.
> I wasn't talking about audience analysis. I was talking about work
> If you work in a technical environment, and you have no technical
> skills/knowledge you aren't very valuable to that environment.

A good writer wants to undestand both the audience's knowledge and the
engineer's knowledge (a.k.a. the "work environment"), and the difference
between the two. Personally, I think a writer who doesn't stop to consider
the audience should stay home. But I'm used to being disagreed with on this

Have a good day,


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Re: What to look for in a technical editor: From: Andrew Plato

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