RE: What about Technical Writer vs Communicator?

Subject: RE: What about Technical Writer vs Communicator?
From: "Leonard C. Porrello" <Leonard -dot- Porrello -at- SoleraTec -dot- com>
To: <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 5 May 2008 13:43:07 -0700

To find out what someone really believes, Aristotle tells us to pay
attention to what he does, not so much to what he says. I think we can
extend this and say, to find out what someone does for a living, look at
what he produces (in contrast to the process that leads up to the
product).

I agree with Deborah--as she defines "communication". She makes an
important point when she states that regardless of genera and media, we
are most valuable to the business when we can excel at "communicating."
In fact, the dictionary supports her use of "communicator": "1. a person
who communicates, esp. one skilled at conveying information, ideas, or
policy to the public. 2. a person in the business of communications, as
television or magazine publishing."

However, I find "communicator" too general for anyone whose product is
entirely in print (be it text, graphics, or even Flash). "Communicator"
makes more sense for someone whose product is primarily phonocentric or
phonocentric and text-centric. I would say that Beth definitely is a
"communicator".

While the "communicator's" communications medium is primarily be voice,
for the writer it is primarily words in print. I think the position of
the "illustrator" is the most difficult. Where writing implies
"communication", "illustrator" does not (probably thanks to all of the
garbage that passed for "art" in the 20th century).

I also agree with Gene. "Technical writer" is ubiquitous and most hiring
managers are going to hire a "technical writer" instead of a "technical
communicator" if they need someone who excels at communicating using
words and pictures. I think it is safe to say the "technical writer" has
more clout as a writer than does the "technical communicator".
"Technical communicator" communicates "generalist", someone who is
pretty good at many forms of communication.

What Gene's description doesn't account for is the fact that it is often
difficult for a "technical writer" to gain recognition as a writer of
different breeds of non-fiction prose in a corporate culture in which
"technical writer" is defined according to the role of "technical
writer" as it is understood in aerospace. At the same time, I give what
he shares a lot of weight. I'd hate for my writing and technologist
skills to be glossed over by a hiring manager because I put "technical
communicator" on my resume instead of "technical writer". Again, we have
a distinction between what a thing is and what the market calls it.

Having said all of that, I'm much more interested in the possibility of
a distinction between "technical writer" and "technical author".
Although I understand that "writer" is a synonym for "author", I "feel"
there is a difference between the two terms.

If my memory serves me correctly, someone on this list recently shared a
wonderful brief history of our industry. He said that "technical
writers" were born of the aerospace industry, where they were hired to
"translate" engineerese into regular English that technicians could
understand. "Writer" makes sense to me in that context and leads me to
think that the task of translating engineerese into common English
should be somehow differentiated from writing from scratch.

In contrast what the first technical writers did, I learn to use an
application and then write about it. In other words, I write from
scratch. In the past, I have also written from engineering
specifications. This isn't quite the same as writing from scratch, but
it involves a lot more than simply translating engineerese. It seems
that "author" might be used to describes what most of us do since we
originate both content and form.

Thoughts?

Leonard C. Porrello


-----Original Message-----
From: techwr-l-bounces+leonard -dot- porrello=soleratec -dot- com -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
[mailto:techwr-l-bounces+leonard -dot- porrello=soleratec -dot- com -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- c
om] On Behalf Of Hemstreet, Deborah
Sent: Monday, May 05, 2008 12:18 PM
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Subject: RE: What about Technical Writer vs Communicator?

Gene Kim-Eng wrote:
"Most US managers tend to associate "communications" with
"Corporate Communications," the department that
generates press releases and all those weasely "Don't Panic!" messages
...."

=================
Well, as a "technical" "writer" I also care about the terminology. I am
one of those people who really don't care what most people think - if
the word is wrong, I won't use it. And if the person who is hiring me
has an incorrect perception of what I do, I try to educate them.

The real problem, I think, is that we are so worried about our jobs and
trying to defend what we do, that we don't do very much educating of
others as to what we do.

I too, have been introduced as a technical writer, but I usually try to
correct the person (gently) and let them know that I do a lot more.
Perhaps I am a stubborn idealist. I looked for a lot of jobs before I
landed this one. I also didn't get hired for positions I was more than
qualified to perform.

As I look back, I probably could have softened my approach and dumbed
myself down. I could have been less idealistic and NOT told the
marketing person that its hard to get motivated to write about a game
that is going to waste people's time and money. I communicated well and
did NOT get the job.

<grin>

But when I was interviewed for this job, I saw that they needed far more
than a "writer" and sold myself as a technical communicator to meet
their needs. My current job title is "writer" because the HR department
does not know how to handle new titles... I don't care. The people I am
working for know and recognize what I do...

Something I would like to see STC do - is to have a more concerted
effort to EDUCATE the public and businesses as to the breadth and depth
of our profession. Get people used to hearing we are COMMUNICATORS...

I won't try to fight the whole world, but I will fight to keep my
standards high where I am...

Writer, to me, just does not say it all...


Deborah





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RE: What about Technical Writer vs Communicator?: From: Hemstreet, Deborah

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