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> > And how many of these systems rely on written text to
> > describe a dance? (Good God, can you imagine trying
> > learn dancing from a text-only description!)
> Why not? Many social dances use text-only descriptions: square,
> Scottish, and English dancing come to mind.
> Char James-Tanny ~ JTF Associates, Inc. ~ http://www.helpstuff.com
What seems to be lost in this whole discussion is this one simple
question: since when has anyone on this list created a deliverable that
was ONLY text? We are Technical Communicators -- certainly we use text,
but whether we are creating online documentation, user manuals, or PDF
spec sheets, I say the odds are slim that any of us use text only.
And while it may be _possible_ to describe a dance (even a rather simple
and regular form) with text only, it certainly is not the _most
Having text to support and explain some information is helpful, but
diagrams, photos, or multimedia would be much more effective to teach
someone dance, whether it's Square Dancing, the Foxtrot, or Swan Lake.
I may be wrong, but if memory serves, this whole discussion started when
someone asked about using writing tests in the interview/hiring process,
then someone made the unfortunate analogy of referencing ballet and the
whole blasted discussion just went downhill from there. To get back to
the original question, it might be useful to give someone a very
narrowly defined writing test: "Write a one-page procedure to explain to
an audience who has never used a computer how to power up this terminal
and launch Microsoft Word."
This would give the interviewer or hiring manager some general
information about the person's ability to spell, write complete
sentences, and use basic jargon (and how to handle that jargon for a
non-technical audience). But to get a better measure of their ability as
a technical writer you'd probably have to ask to see writing samples,
test their familiarity with the company's chosen software suite, and/or
explore their aptitude with a certain class of technology (depending on
what kind of documentation they'll be producing).
If you (due to HR restrictions, time constraints, budget, or other
issues) don't have the ability to screen for these items, then you'll
get an incomplete picture of the person's ability as a technical writer.
You may wind up hiring someone as a technical writer who has a fabulous
knack with the language, but with the writing style of Douglas Adams or
"Error!" cried the project manager, and the debuggers leaped
to attack the code; but Windows Explorer--while yesterday's
virii corroded within it--seemed combinedly possessed by all the
hackers who dropped out of Berkeley.
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