Re: Current trends in Authoring Tools?

Subject: Re: Current trends in Authoring Tools?
From: Ned Bedinger <doc -at- edwordsmith -dot- com>
To: ct <straylightsghost -at- gmail -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 08 Feb 2007 11:33:08 -0800

ct wrote:

The main tool? Skill and Talent. Everything else can be learned.
I'm REALLY going to PO a few people here...ready?

You're right. But now I'm REALLY REALLY going to PO a few. Brace yourself, laddie.

FrameMaker? RoboHelp? NOT brain surgery. 80% of what needs to be
done can be learned in a good weekend of sit-down, hands on study.

Like you, I agree that learning a documentation tool is something most of us could do independently while ramping up on a project. Why do so many recruiters and hiring managers have a cow when good candidates, when asked directly, reveal that they don't have the exact tool experience?

Will knowing these programs a Tech Writer make?
No, but knowing the tools AND the audience might.


Command of the language at hand? Be that language English, Chinese,
Hebrew, Pig Latin...THAT, my friends is what makes us Technical

I suppose you could define tech writers that way, but I like a more functional definition that respects the need also for fluent cognitive language skills. You might have touched on this as "skills and talent" but it deserves some explict airing as a tech writing thing: I'm talking about the sketchy language skills that tech writers use to make information readily translatable into the user's mentalese. Cognitive language skills are the skills that make a writer someone who can capture and present good technical information to someone who will recognize it for what it is. Compare that to a well-written document that contains all the necessary information, but users' eyes glaze over at the sight of it.

If you accept my definition, then you'll allow, as technical writers, some pretty marginal writers who flout really good English. For me, at least, I think that this acceptance is a foregone conclusion. Before someone throws a chair, consider the following example.
A Case in point: SMEs and engineers who are writing for their peers. We (titled tech writers) read what they've written, our jaw drops so hard it breaks the spring, and we wonder how anyone could ever follow what is written. We're absolutely certain that we can improve it, and that no one could take the right meaning from it as is. But the authors of such material know their audience, and through bad writing, they can transfer knowledge efficiently and effectively to them. May the gods hinder me in my progress if I am wrong: they are technical writers. I wouldn't even bother to distinguish between Technical Writer and technical writer--they're doing what we're supposed to be able to do, and that's why companies can sneak by without technical writers.
OK, brawl on if you wanna.

Ned Bedinger
doc -at- edwordsmith -dot- com

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Current trends in Authoring Tools?: From: ct
Re: Current trends in Authoring Tools?: From: Joe Malin
Re: Current trends in Authoring Tools?: From: ct

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