RE: What Are Writing Skills?

Subject: RE: What Are Writing Skills?
From: "Sharon Burton" <sharon -at- anthrobytes -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Sat, 12 Mar 2005 14:33:30 -0800

But why shouldn't you have to take a class or 6 or 10? Technical writing,
like engineering, cooking, anthropology, journalism, or many other things is
a thing to study. It's isn't something that you can just "learn the specific
concrete steps" and know what you need to know to be a good technical

Why is studying this field "such lengths"? This field is what you do for a
living. It should be worth your time and effort to learn more about it. You
need some other tools in your tool kit. DFDs are not going to get you very

Have you read ANY books at all on technical writing? Ever? I searched on
Amazon and found some 51 hits, as I recall, on the phase: structured
"technical writing". Surely, something in there would tell you something
that you don't already know about technical writing.

As I said before (see this is the part I was talking about in another email
where this LOOKS like a conversation because we go back and forth but it's
really not because you're not actually listening to what I or others are
saying. My most recent ex husband was like this and look where it got
him...) minimalism is the theoretical paradigm shift that happened in
technical writing about 20/25 years ago. It shifted the entire field and you
need to understand what it is and why the paradigm shift matters. Beyond the
Nuremburg Principle is a good example of the shift and what people thought
of it. That with Rhetoric should get you moving in the right direction. That
generally covers the theory of how we do what we do. Then there is the How
to stuff specific stuff, like indexing, using technical illustrations,
organizing, etc. but you are only going to get meta level in that area, too.

No one can give you specific steps that will result in excellent product
documentation every time, Tony, and you know that. The specific steps to
produce a great cash register manual are similar at the meta level to those
for creating a great manual about a Sarbanes-Oxley product and a writing
tractor manual. But the specific steps for finding out and structuring and
presenting to the user each manual are different because you have different
work environments, different audiences, and different needs.

Can you reduce the field of engineering to specific concrete steps to
follow? (The answer is no, you cannot. It is a complex field with complex
problems to solve, requiring people to use talent and creativity) Why are
you being a reductionist? If you have any science training, you know can't
usefully operationally define writing user manuals, at least not in the
sense that you can use the same operational definition from one thing to
another, except at the meta level. If we could, we could create software to
do this. But we can't and so we haven't.

Technical writing is in part solving unique problems. Operational
definitions cannot be used in a creative environment during the creative

Please, oh please, get some education in technical writing... What a
difference this will make. To all of us.

Oh - and this may be a surprise to you - Google is not the best research
tool, especially if you are only going to look at the first 30 hits.
Research is another field that requires specialized training to do well. It
also cannot be usefully reduced or operationally defined. But a general
guideline is be creative in how one searches for information and tenacious
is snarking out what you are looking for.


Sharon Burton
CEO, Anthrobytes Consulting
President of IESTC

-----Original Message-----
From: Tony Markos [mailto:ajmarkos -at- yahoo -dot- com]
Sent: Saturday, March 12, 2005 12:28 PM
To: sharon -at- anthrobytes -dot- com; TECHWR-L
Subject: RE: What Are Writing Skills?


--- Sharon Burton <sharon -at- anthrobytes -dot- com> wrote:
I sent you to Minimalism as a way to think about
structuring your writing.

Tony Markos:

Ok, let me summarize: I ask "What Are Writing Skills?"
I'm told that the "meat" (my summary word) of writing
skills is skill in structured writing. I research the
web on structured writing and only find fluff. I ask
this listserv for specific, concrete steps and
techniques. Only you respond, stating, if I
understand correctly: Structured writing is all about


1.) When I ask "What Are Writing Skills?", I seek the
real "meat", not the periferal. Are you saying that
Minimalism is the "meat" of writing skills or
structured writing?

2.) I googled on "minimalism is". I reviewed the
first thrity hits. Problem: Those pages only state
things like Minimalism is "a set of [high level]
principles", a "generic" term, a "concept", and
"everybody has a different definition". In other
words: They give fluff, not specific, concrete steps
and technqiues.

Sharon, again, if structured writing is the "meat" of
writing skills, then I have to believe that
discovering specific, concrete steps and/or techniques
for doing such would be a very straight forward task.

Sharon Burton:

I think I sent you a small reading list.

Tony Markos:

If you did, and I really don't remember seeing such;
if the readings give specific, concrete technqiues
and/or techniques PLEASE resend - I really seek an
answer to "What Are Writing Skills?"

Sharon Burton:

I offered to let you take my class this spring where I
can teach you how to write in a structured way.

Tony Markos:

Thanks for the offer, but if structured writing is so
fundamental to TWing, to answer my basic question, I
really should not have to go to such lengths.


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RE: What Are Writing Skills?: From: Tony Markos

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