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We all learned grammar and language skills in grade school. Some people
are 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.
Well actually, if you side with Chomsky on this, language and grammar
are innate, and people who never go to school acquire the particular
parameters for the specific language (or languages) in which they're
immersed just the same as school children do. So just about everybody
in the world who falls wthin a fairly broad range of "the norm" has
language and grammar skills.
But then there's formal language, which is often different from everyday
language. All those grammar classes in school are meant to reinforce
the formal usage. There's no guarantee that a person will ever be
immersed in formal usage -- I suspect those who are have a better chance
of turning into decent techical writers if that's what they want to do.
Technical writing often introduces a conflict between formal usage and
vernacular (jargon?). Sometimes the formal constructs render a
statement meaningless, sometimes the vernacular is so specialized or
overloaded as to make a statement meaningless... Content free, as one
of my favorite people used to say. To think through this type of
problem a person needs a formalized understanding of (yes!) both the
formal language and the vernacular (and the concepts underneath *both*
of those things). The solution to such a problem is a matter of
judgement - an authorative opinion, according to my pocket Webster's.
Opinions gain authority with formalized knowledge of the subject. Some
people can formalize their understandings via their own analysis, others
need to go to school.
The ideal candidate for any software writing or editing position would
have invented C++, already written "The Encyclopedia of Everything",
contributed a minimum of 50% to the OED, have an MBA, and would have run
a PR firm for a minimum of 12 years. This person isn't applying for the
job. People have strengths and weaknesses. People join together to
form teams. They help each other out. They get the job done, even if
the star has to slow down a little to bring the rest of the team along.
Ignorance of some part of the problem space is not unpardonable - it's
expected. Refusal to learn is unpardonable - failure to learn is
unfortunate and may be cause for dismissal. Another unpardonable sin is
getting in the way of somebody else's learning. Take note.
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