Re: job title nomenclature on biz cards

Subject: Re: job title nomenclature on biz cards
From: "Ned Bedinger" <doc -at- edwordsmith -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 19 Aug 2004 14:17:46 -0700

----- Original Message -----
From: "Andrew Plato" <gilliankitty -at- yahoo -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Sent: Thursday, August 19, 2004 10:36 AM
Subject: Re: job title nomenclature on biz cards

> "diotima" <diotima -at- myway -dot- com> wrote in message news:247407 -at- techwr-l -dot- -dot- -dot-

> If you handed me a card with the title "technical writer" I would expect
you to
> be able to author content from scratch based on your own knowledge.
> Andrew Plato

It just depends on the team and the range of documentation services
provided. In some cases, authoring that erects the documentation girders
and panels is sufficient for technical writing, because the subject matter
expertise can come from subject matter experts.

In other cases (Andrew's criteria fit here), there is no SME, no
developmental editor, no graphic artists, no product requirements or design
documentation--all the writer gets to work with is a crude map, a parachute,
and a push from the tech writer pool at 60,000 ft. The writer who has a
strong sense of the exact information needed and what to do with it is going
to hit the ground running, and any less prepared technical writer would be
doomed to the spin cycle for the duration of the project. API documentation
is one such project--the information is highly structured and predicatble,
but you need to understand the programming language (find the files where
the APIs are declared, read the code, write sample code, ...), or else you
can't write the documentation, or edit it. The project will be on spin
cycle from the beginning unless everyone on the documentation team has
fundamental expertise in the subject matter.

All projects are like this to some degree, with the writer's expertise being
the link most likely to fail in getting information from one expert to
another. The writer's ability to author new content is a window on the
writer's comprehension of the subject matter, but no team member (editors
included) can operate with just tools, rules, and methodology--everyone
needs authoritative comprehension to produce technical communications:

Here's a pointed stick to poke at the "author" criteria: If an editor edits
the electronic copy, isn't that authoring? It can certainly create meaning.

Here's an example (joke form) of when the writer's job is done, but the
editor's comprehension of subject matter and grammatical rules determines
the meaning:


A panda walks into a café. He orders a sandwich, eats it, then draws a gun
and fires two shots in the air.

"Why?!" asks the confused waiter, as the panda makes towards the exit.

The panda produces a badly punctuated wildlife manual and tosses it over his

"I'm a panda" he says, at the door. "Look it up."

The waiter turns to the relevant entry and, sure enough, finds an

"Panda. Large black-and-white bear-like mammal, native to China. Eats,
shoots and leaves."


Haw haw haw.

Ned Bedinger
Ed Wordsmith Technical Communications


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Re: job title nomenclature on biz cards: From: Andrew Plato

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