Re: RE: Is this a typical technical writing environment?

Subject: Re: RE: Is this a typical technical writing environment?
From: "Karen Graber" <graber -at- iodp -dot- tamu -dot- edu>
To: <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 20 Feb 2004 16:50:05 -0600

I'm going to offer my personal observations.

I t hink there are definite differences in how engineers and tech
writers think, but I don't think logic or reasoning is the difference.
I'm logical. My academic training was in science (geology). I work with
engineers related to the oil industry, and I have several relatives that
are or were engineers. I took some employment testing in high school and
they said I could be an engineer. I thought they were crazy. I am
interested in how and why things work, but that doesn't mean I want to
build them. I am also a good problem solver, but I don't want to
calculate to the fourth decimal place. I may have the ability to be an
engineer but I don't have the interest.

A major difference I've observed is that technical writers are word
oriented people and engineers are more graphically oriented. We may both
be visually oriented people but the type of graphic is different.
Engineers tend to be spatially oriented. I had to work very hard to deal
with geometry, structural geology, and optical mineralogy--all spatially
oriented disciplines. Some people cross over between disciplines
(e.g.,the engineer who writes well, or the tech writer who is spatially
oriented), but it depends on the individual.

When I took notes in class, I wrote the words down. If they were
drawing diagrams and I needed to write both the words and the diagrams
but I didn't have time, I found the drawings didn't make sense without
the words. So I'd tape the lecture or I'd study with someone who had the
drawings and we could combine notes. It's much easier for me to grasp a
concept when I can see the words rather than hear them.

As far as the original question about whether this is the typical
environment--I think it is in many work places. Keeping people informed
in one department is hard enough. If you're crossing departments, it's
even harder. I think part of that relates to work loads and
communications styles. It is also a mind set. I did some volunteer work
answering e-mail for an organization I belonged to and it took people
with an ill defined but recognizable mind set to do the job. I saw our
job as connecting people, gathering information, and keeping people
informed. That is a skill or talent in itself.

Got to run. Enjoyed the discussion.

Karen Graber
Integrated Ocean Drilling Program
College Station, TX

>>> "Bill Swallow" <wswallow -at- nycap -dot- rr -dot- com> - 2/20/04 3:35 PM >>>

Possibly, but to acknowledge the differences without determining
whether or
not they exist (you're talking to a logic and reasoning guy here) puts
communication at risk. Whether you want to believe the studies or not
hold your crotch or not, right Geoff?) you still have to do your own
work to determine whether it is in fact the case where you work. This
is a
mere example of why I hate how people throw studies around like they

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