Re: What Are Writing Skills?

Subject: Re: What Are Writing Skills?
From: Al Geist <al -dot- geist -at- geistassociates -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 08 Mar 2005 18:35:18 -0700

Sorry Jerry, Chuck's right on this one. Having work as and with engineers for many years, most can't and don't want to write. However, with that said, a good technical writer should have some foundation in the field in which they are writing. An electronics hardware technical writer trying to develop SOPs for a HMO would be as out-of-water as an RF engineer trying to document a GUI for CRM package. The difference is, you won't need to teach the electronics hardware writer how to create documentation.

My two-cents...and yes, being a writer for over 30 years and hearing this same writer-engineer argument for the last 29 of them makes me a bit biased.


Chuck Martin wrote:

Jerry Muelver wrote:

I can make an engineer into a writer a lot easier than I can make a writer into an engineer. Communication is the eliciting of a response -- effective communication is the eliciting of a desired response. Engineers understand and respect the difference, and will gladly work to a spec that says, "Get thus-and-so behavior out of the reader," whereas a capital-W Writer will more often work for personal warm fuzzies and leave the consequences of readers' behavior up to the readers themselves.

I could not disagree more with this premise. Good writing--good communication--is not a skill that is either easily taught or easily learned.

But what offends me the most is the assumptions that "a capital-W Writer will most often work for warm fuzzies." The goal of good writing, of good technical writing, is to help readers reach their goals. Or on an even higher and more important level, to ensure reader (read: user) happiness. Good (technical) writers are proud of work that accomplishes this goal, but have no ego that stands in the way of others' contributions and input to help reach that goal.


Al Geist, Geist Associates
From Concept to Completion
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Office: 505-294-8855

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E-mail: al -dot- geist -at- geistassociates -dot- com <mailto:al -dot- geist -at- geistassociates -dot- com>

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