TechWhirl (TECHWR-L) is a resource for technical writing and technical communications professionals of all experience levels and in all industries to share their experiences and acquire information.
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As a student in a technical wriiting, I would have to agree that technical
writing skills cannot really be taught to non-writers, especially at the
university level. A number of universities attempt to market their products
as available to anyone willing to take the classes, and as preparation for
employment as a technical writer or technical editor. While profitable to
the universities, it is not quite true.
Poor writers, unorganized writers, or incompetent writers will still have
those same deficiencies when they graduate, regardless of how many credits
of "writing" classes they have completed. The fact that many of those
graduates have high GPAs, especially in writing classes, is more a
commentary on the weaknesses in the system than on their ability to write.
To the degree that a prospective employer is impressed by a BS or BA in
technical writing, English, or journalism is that degree useful. It is in no
way an indication of writing skill.
Preparing a 10-15 page report with supporting research and insightful
analysis is a task to be completed in a weekend in the real world, and a
week to complete it would be a vacation. In many university classes,
especially writing and English classes, that is a semester project, is still
submitted with glaring errors in syntax, structure, and spelling, and often
earns an "A" in the process.
If a student has fairly strong writing skills going in, he or she might have
stronger skills coming out. Weak or mediocre writers are wasting their time.
University professors cannot be expected to develop writing skills that
should have been developed in junior high or high school. No matter how many
buzz-words are memorized, no matter how many "writing tools" are acquired,
when push comes to shove, the overwhelming majority of wannabe technical
writers would be better off trying to write screenplays. (For those of you
engineering types who have never taken a shot at screenwriting, that is a
joke--the probabilities of flying by frenetic arm flapping are substantially
higher than of selling a screenplay.)
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