RE: This too is technical communication

Subject: RE: This too is technical communication
From: "Ladonna Weeks" <ladonna -dot- weeks -at- comtrak -dot- com>
To: "'Mike Starr'" <mike -at- writestarr -dot- com>, <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 6 Jun 2007 12:31:34 -0500

I bet a fair number of people on this list are grandparents. I
am! :-)

Ladonna Weeks
ladonna -dot- weeks -at- comtrak -dot- com
cell: 314-210-1652

-----Original Message-----
From: Mike Starr [mailto:mikestarr-techwr-l -at- writestarr -dot- com]
Sent: Tuesday, June 05, 2007 3:57 PM
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Subject: Re: This too is technical communication

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
Technical Writer - Online Help Developer - Website
Graphic Designer - Desktop Publisher - MS Office
Phone: (262) 694-1028 - Tollfree: (877) 892-1028 - Fax:(262)
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
> need to know, or be able to comprehend is a level of capability
> 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
>> write your document as best as you know how. It has nothing to
>> 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
>> has nothing to do it. The skill is an interviewing skill, not
>> you are clueless or not.
>> Any stance that maintains that the correct technical level of
>> 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
Re: This too is technical communication: From: Mike Starr

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