RE: Definition of Tech Writer, was STC is broken

Subject: RE: Definition of Tech Writer, was STC is broken
From: "Joe Armstrong" <gandalf16 -at- hotmail -dot- com>
To: <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Sun, 4 May 2008 12:38:02 +0300

Aside from just being an arrogant jerk, Jason is also incorrect in his
response to this issue. Moreover, if there are no differences at all between
Technical Writing and Business Writing, then the problem isn't one of
classification, but of nomenclature. Once again we waste time on the old
name game and the old arguments.

The primary purpose of Technical Writing is to present functional
information in the most efficient manner. The primary purpose of
Business/Marketing Writing is to present a message. Never mind the frequent
differences in recognition, working environment, compensation, etc. that
also come up between the two.

Jason's sweeping generalizations aside ("Every TW I know does one or more of
those documents as a ROUTINE part of their TW job."), I do have to support
his views on the risks associated with the different types of documentation.
It is certainly the case that lives can hang on proper Technical Writing.

I suppose I could go on a rant here about what this list is supposed to be
for, proper etiquette and so on, but I think enough time has already been


Joe Armstrong

> ------------------------------
> Message: 2
> Date: Sat, 03 May 2008 08:24:49 -0400
> From: "Jason A. Czekalski" <topsidefarm -at- mva -dot- net>
> Subject: RE: Definition of Tech Writer, was STC is broken
> To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
> Cc: WestM -at- conwag -dot- com
> Message-ID: <481C5991 -dot- 66D0A8B -at- mva -dot- net>
> Content-Type: text/plain; charset=us-ascii
> I have to respectfully but firmly disagree with much of Lauren's
> statement and strongly agree with Mr. West.
> "Lauren" <lauren -at- writeco -dot- net> wrote:
>> For example, business writing includes feasibility study reports,
>> business
>> plans, proposals, marketing documentation, internal memos (official
>> communication), policies, and a host of other documents that require a
>> focus
>> and style that is different from what is required for technical writing.
> Every TW I know does one or more of those documents as a ROUTINE part of
> their TW job. Some, like feasibility study reports, business plans, and
> proposals are pure TW documents.
>> Business writing generally tries to entice the reader into accepting the
>> subject matter of the document or it compels the reader to abide by the
>> subject matter, such as rules, in the document.
> And this is different from TW in what way????
>> Technical writing, on the other hand, is generally written for an
>> audience
>> that is already somewhat receptive to the subject matter, like an end
>> user
>> who wants to know how to use a product or a system administrator who
>> needs
>> to know the requirements of an application.
> And many members of these groups are @#$%^& know-it-alls who avoid using
> the manual. If your documents don't "entice" them, the docs won't be
> used.
>>Technical writers may need to
>> use a little marketing in documentation, but marketing is not usually
>> required.
> Incorrect! See last statement!
>>Technical writing has a focus on the details of the subject
>> matter and the usability of the document, whereas, business writing is
>> focused on the mind of the reader and on getting buy-in for the subject
>> matter.
> Once again, arguing non-existent differences. A good business writer
> also has to focus on "the details of the subject matter and the
> usability of the document" while a good TW also has to focus on "the
> mind of the reader and on getting buy-in for the subject matter." Once
> again, same difference.
>> The risks of an unsuccessful technical document are lower than the risks
>> of
>> an unsuccessful business document, although the detail of technical
>> documents is greater than that of business documents. Risks are lower
>> for
>> technical writing because the failure of the document means that the
>> audience will not understand the product.
> WHOA!!! I don't know what your experience with TW has been, but where I
> work, people die if my document is wrong. I have never seen anyone
> seriously injured or killed because of errors in business plans,
> proposals, or marketing documentation. However, I have seen these when
> manuals have been wrong. Given that feasability studies, or internal
> memos can also get into the engineering and safety issues usually
> covered in a manual, these risks can be associated with them as well.
> The risks associated with incorrect business docs pale in comparison to
> those associated with incorrect tech docs.
>> Although failure of each class of document has financial risks, the risks
>> from a failed business document are generally greater than the risks of a
>> failed technical document.
> More than a few manufacturers are no longer in business because of
> product liability claims based on improper documentation. A failed
> business plan can't cause any more damage than that.
>> I think that the two writing classes are different enough to be mutually
>> exclusive. Business writing is high risk, low detail, and
>> marketing-focused. Technical writing is low risk, high detail, and
>> usability-focused.
>> Lauren
> Once again, you are creating false dichotomies based on incorrect
> assumptions. Whether we call it tech writing, medical writing, science
> writing, business writing, grant writing, etc., etc., etc., it is all
> the same. These are all just sub-fields of technical communication. It
> is time to get off this crap about how differenet and mutually exclusive
> the different sub-fields are. There is no basis whatsoever for such an
> ascertion unless someone uses a lot of false assumptions. If you can
> write for one, you can quickly shift gears and learn to write for any of
> the others (within reason).
> I will, however, add one caveat here (the "within reason"). The biggest
> divider is going to be knowledge of the underlying subject matter. If
> you don't know anything about the science or technology behind your
> subject, then you are going to have difficulty with writing anything
> about it. It doesn't matter how good you are at marketing writing,
> you're going to have a tough time in my world if you don't know heavy
> manufacturing. I, however, can walk into any factory in the world where
> English is spoken and quickly get to work writing ANY document needed by
> the company. On the flip side, however, I would get slaughtered if I
> tried anything beyond the most basic documentation in something like
> biotech.
> Again, the writing types are not mutually exclusive. It is the knowledge
> of the specific subject matter that makes the difference.
> Jason A. Czekalski
> ------------------------------


Create HTML or Microsoft Word content and convert to Help file formats or
printed documentation. Features include support for Windows Vista & 2007
Microsoft Office, team authoring, plus more.

True single source, conditional content, PDF export, modular help.
Help & Manual is the most powerful authoring tool for technical
documentation. Boost your productivity!

You are currently subscribed to TECHWR-L as archive -at- web -dot- techwr-l -dot- com -dot-

To unsubscribe send a blank email to
techwr-l-unsubscribe -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
or visit

To subscribe, send a blank email to techwr-l-join -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com

Send administrative questions to admin -at- techwr-l -dot- com -dot- Visit for more resources and info.


Previous by Author: Re: WebHelp & TOC Syncing--Help!
Next by Author: RE: Definition of Tech Writer, was STC is broken
Previous by Thread: RE: Definition of Tech Writer, was STC is broken
Next by Thread: RE: Definition of Tech Writer, was STC is broken

What this post helpful? Share it with friends and colleagues:

Sponsored Ads