Re: Just can't help myself

Subject: Re: Just can't help myself
From: Martin Bosworth <martinhbosworth -at- gmail -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 27 Apr 2005 14:09:26 -0400

> This is, IMO, one of the fundameltal flaws in what technical writing
> has now become, and is a symptom indicative of a larger problem. With
> such vast variety we become more of a quick-fix jack of all trades and
> not a specialist in a specific industry for a specific purpose.
> There's more money and stability in the latter than the former, and
> the former makes it easier for competition to come in, and thus the
> lower rates.

But the more you specialize a vocation, the more risk you run of not
being able to compete or diversify to meet other needs. If all tech
writers were mandated to fit Format XYZ, i.e. "You must know this kind
of data flow process", "You must be proficient in FrameMaker 7.0 and
RoboHelp 6.0", it can cause many talented and professional writers to
lose out. Now, granted, it's on them to improve their skills and stay
abreast of business trends. Perhaps this is where certification may
play the role some think it needs to play.

Personally, I LIKE vast variety. I like the idea of being able to try
new things and work my magic in different realms of business. Perhaps
this is because I'm young, and have not really known any other kind of
professional lifestyle beyond contracting and working with different
clients over the years. I don't know. The thought of being locked into
a single position for the bulk of my life doesn't appeal to me.

> Well, I'm neither for or against certification at this point. I want
> hard evidence that there's a specific need and I want hard
> requirements for what constitutes certification. Until those items
> materialize, I can't condone a push for certification.
> On another note, I don't see what the reasons you cite have to do with
> certification.

It's my way of saying that arbitrary standards will not fit what is a
very diverse and "hard-to-pin-down" profession. For the record, I
agree with you that someone should show hard statistics in terms of
hiring, salary, and retention (For a start) to prove that
certifications lead to better jobs for TW's. What else might you

> Programmers aren't forced to be certified. It can be beneficial, but
> it's not required. Same goes for IT folks.

I agree! At least that's the way it was when I was doing it. Now it
seems to be more and more of a mandate. Purely subjective, I admit.

> I disagree. Writing is the very minor, mechanical portion of what we
> do. The best way to be a better tech writer is to become
> industry-savvy (that is, the industry in which you're working as a
> writer), more business-savvy (learn what the movers and the shakers
> are really looking for in your contribution and leveraging that to
> also better the user community you support), and be as
> analytically-minded as possible when solving problems with words.

Now that I absolutely disagree with. Not the idea that we need to be
industry-savvy, but the idea that writing is the minor, mechanical
part of the job. If writing doesn't count, then what are we, really?
What is our purpose?

I already am learning and doing tons more than I ever expected to as
it is, and I love it, but it all stems from my ability to write. If I
suddenly found myself unable to do that one day, I'd be unable to

> > When it comes down to crunch time and the manual needs finishing, I'd
> > rather be the guy who gets it done than the guy with a million
> > certificates who doesn't know how to open a Table of Contents in Word
> > 2003.
> I wouldn't see that ever happening. Certification does not equal
> ineptitude, and to suggest that really deteriorates your position on
> the subject.

It doesn't, but that doesn't mean the inept can't get them either.
Certification does not automatically equal *aptitude* any more than it
equals *ineptitude*.


Martin H. Bosworth
Technical Writer, Telemedicine Directorate
Walter Reed Army Medical Center (
Writer/Editor, (


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RE: Just can't help myself: From: John Posada
Re: Just can't help myself: From: Bill Swallow
Re: Just can't help myself: From: Martin Bosworth
Re: Just can't help myself: From: Bill Swallow

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