RE: Breaking into the tech writing job market

Subject: RE: Breaking into the tech writing job market
From: "Combs, Richard" <richard -dot- combs -at- Polycom -dot- com>
To: <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 9 Aug 2006 11:10:36 -0600

Mike Schmidt wrote:

> Ignorance isn't the issue. By having someone show you, the
> writer, something you didn't previously understand, you are
> now no longer ignorant. You now understand it. But, you are
> still not necessarily an expert and you may tend to write it
> on a level more apt to appeal to someone else (who also may
> not be an expert).

You're right, you don't have to have a degree in a field or be an
"expert" to write about it. But you *do* have to *understand* what
you're writing about! You may start out ignorant and have to _acquire_
that understanding, but that understanding is essential to communicating

I think we're in violent agreement on that part. ;-)

Where we differ is that you think being a subject-matter novice --
having just acquired the bare minimum knowledge -- makes you better able
to write for other novices. I think that being a tech-writing expert
gives you that ability, not being a subject-matter novice.

Having _more_ than the bare minimum of knowledge enables you to write
for a wider range of audiences, and enables you to decide where to draw
the line between novice-level and intermediate-level information. If you
only know the bare minimum, then you've let your teacher decide what's
novice-level and what's not.

But then, I share this attitude:

"There is nothing so minute or inconsiderable that I would not rather
know it than not know it."
-- Samuel Johnson



Richard G. Combs
Senior Technical Writer
Polycom, Inc.
richardDOTcombs AT polycomDOTcom
rgcombs AT gmailDOTcom


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