Quote of the Day

Subject: Quote of the Day
From: Jim Barrow <vrfour -at- verizon -dot- net>
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Date: Tue, 28 Aug 2007 09:23:11 -0500 (CDT)

"Writing is not a profession, but a vocation of unhappiness."
-- Georges Simenon

If I had to boil the following rant down to a simple question, it would be: How long does it take for a business to treat technical writing as a respected profession? More specifically, how long does it take them to stop referring to us as "scribes"?

There are 70 people in our department. Twenty-five of these know that a portion of their success is due to the documents that the Tech Pubs department has produced. Forty of these people view tech writers as people who take documents and "make them pretty" (dot this, cross that, use a pretty font, etc.). Five of these people refer to us as "scribes". I can't stand that term. From Wikipedia:

"A scribe (or scrivener) is an ancient professional...usually involv[ing] secretarial and administrative duties such as taking of dictation." [shudder]

Four of the people who refer to us as scribes are developers who all but have outright contempt for technical writers. Their "scribe" comments used to get muttered under their breath. After a recent all-hands meeting, in which a senior VP referred to us as scribes, these developers started walking around snapping, "Hey, tech writer, go scribe; jot that down".

My manager is disgusted and wants to call a meeting. He wants to spend an hour extolling the virtues of the tech writers. Uh...no, I can't subscribe to this approach.

Personally, I find this demoralizing, especially when I see these same developers getting praised for a job-well-done after creating software...using the technical specifications that the tech writers developed. </rant>

- Jim


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