Re: Tech writers who cannot communicate (was: Definition of Tech Writer, was STC is broken)

Subject: Re: Tech writers who cannot communicate (was: Definition of Tech Writer, was STC is broken)
From: Mike Starr <mikestarr-techwr-l -at- writestarr -dot- com>
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Date: Thu, 15 May 2008 06:59:19 -0500

At one time, I worked on a contract assignment in which I was charged with updating content created several years prior by a freelance technical writer. I was flat-out appalled at what I was given. It was full of errors, inconsistencies, poor grammar, formatting problems and completely unprofessional (IMNSHO). The person is still freelancing but in a different marketplace. I joked with some friends that I'd like to summarily discharge that person from the ranks of technical writers, ripping the epaulets from the person's uniform and snapping the person's saber over my knee in front of the ranks of assembled technical writers.

However, as far as the client was concerned, those documents were just fine. I did not criticize the other documents or the previous writer to the client but in my overhaul of them, I presented the client with documents I'm proud of. But it just goes to show that the client often has no concept of what good technical writing really is. As the sole technical writer, I imposed my own standards but the client itself had no standards for documentation. In many cases, the need of the client is to simply provide something that will allow them to place a check mark in the box that says "documentation". They often have no interest in the esoterica that distinguishes good technical writing from bad.

Unfortunately, I don't think there's a way we as a profession can promote wide knowledge of what makes a document good technical writing. My approach? Provide the best document possible given the requirements of the client. I'm always glad to explain why I've done something differently from the previous writer, presenting the logical reasoning behind my approach. Hopefully, my shining examples will be viewed by the client as worlds apart from their previous documents. They may not understand why they're better at a detailed level but they ought to say they're great documents.

Mike
--
Mike Starr WriteStarr Information Services
Technical Writer - Online Help Developer - Technical Illustrator
Graphic Designer - Desktop Publisher - MS Office Expert
(262) 694-1028 - mike -at- writestarr -dot- com - http://www.writestarr.com

> Lauren wrote:
>
>
>> Are there people who call themselves a Technical Writer and who cannot
>> communicate, but still be employed?
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Follow-Ups:

References:
RE: Definition of Tech Writer, was STC is broken: From: Michael West
RE: Definition of Tech Writer, was STC is broken: From: Michael West

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