Re: This too is technical communication

Subject: Re: This too is technical communication
From: "Mike Starr" <mikestarr-techwr-l -at- writestarr -dot- com>
To: <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 5 Jun 2007 15:56:54 -0500

I'm not trying to write documentation for clueless idiots but I may adopt
the persona of one when interviewing a subject matter expert or testing a
software product. It's a whole lot easier for me to tell an engineer to
explain something to me the same way they'd explain it to a high-school
dropout forklift driver (I sometimes say to explain things to me like they'd
explain them to their grandmother but please don't infer from that that I
believe all grandmothers are clueless idiots). I then tell the engineer that
I may ask some really stupid questions but they're not because I'm stupid or
because I want to create documentation for the stupid... I merely want to
ferret out all the little details of information that engineers tend to
forget they know because they've never had to explain their work to someone
without their extensive background knowledge. I also tell them that I need
to know things at the kindergarten level so that I can understand them well
enough to explain them to my real audience.

For me, the short explanation I give to some folks is that I'm a
"professional clueless idiot". It's also particularly helpful in delivering
a brief synopsis of a major aspect of my job to someone who's never even
heard of a technical writer. I don't need to go into detail about how I
dance with cascading style sheets or manipulate objects in an integrated
development environment (these things added to forestall the respondents
who'll say "but wait, there's more to what we do than that!). I also
sometimes say that I translate "engineer" into "human".

Mike Starr WriteStarr Information Services
Technical Writer - Online Help Developer - Website developer
Graphic Designer - Desktop Publisher - MS Office Expert
Phone: (262) 694-1028 - Tollfree: (877) 892-1028 - Fax:(262) 697-6334
Email: mike -at- writestarr -dot- com - Web:

----- Original Message -----
From: "Gene Kim-Eng" <techwr -at- genek -dot- com>
To: "John Posada" <jposada01 -at- yahoo -dot- com>; <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Sent: Tuesday, June 05, 2007 3:27 PM
Subject: Re: This too is technical communication

> Same here. The ability to employ technical knowledge and
> past experience to predict what a "clueless idiot" will and will
> not know, need to know, or be able to comprehend is a level
> of capability that is significantly higher than just being able to
> think like one.
> Gene Kim-Eng
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "John Posada" <jposada01 -at- yahoo -dot- com>
>> I reject this whole "clueless idiot" position.
>> Being a professional technical writer means you have the skill to
>> write your document as best as you know how. It has nothing to do
>> with writing a document because you know too much, not enough or just
>> the right amount.
>> It also means that you know how to get the right information from the
>> subject matter experts. The amount of information you already know
>> has nothing to do it. The skill is an interviewing skill, not whether
>> you are clueless or not.
>> Any stance that maintains that the correct technical level of the
>> document is achieved because of any factor other than knowing how to
>> is absurd.


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RE: This too is technical communication: From: John Posada
Re: This too is technical communication: From: Gene Kim-Eng

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