Re: What do you guys think of STC's new definition for technical writer?

Subject: Re: What do you guys think of STC's new definition for technical writer?
From: Evelyn Lee Barney <evbarney -at- comcast -dot- net>
To: "Cardimon, Craig" <ccardimon -at- M-S-G -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 27 May 2008 16:47:19 -0400

New terminology takes time. When *I* say "technical writer" I get loads
of flack about the whole information design aspect, which is where my
primary interest lies. People seem to think that all I do, or ever plan
to do, is "write understandable instructions on how to program a VCR"
(And yes, that's what they say, though VCRs themselves are getting less
common) I think there are two choices: Educate people on the broad
skills involved in technical writing, or educate people about a new,
and, in my opinion, ultimately more accurate term.

As for me and my house, option two seems more logical and achievable.
It also says something about the future direction of the field.

My feeling about this stems mostly from the fact that this is a second
career for me, and I am in school on a disability grant. The people who
administer the grant are generous, but they also watch me like a hawk,
which is fair enough. Still, I hate conversations that go like this
(and I've had a number of them) :

Grantguy: Your job plan says your goal is to be a technical writer.

Me: Yes, that's right.

Grantguy: Your transcript says you are taking art courses.

Me; Yes, true.

Grantguy: What does that have to do with technical writing?

Me: Well, did you look at the names of the courses?

Grantguy: No, just "art ###"

Me: Okay, well, if you look you'll see that one is called Information
Design, another Digital Imagery, and another Fundamentals of Interactive
Web Design. The others are similar.

Grantguy:: Oh, so there isn't anything like Ceramics or Oil Painting?

Me: Errrr - no.

Grantguy: Well, okay then.

The problem is that they forget. We have had this conversation a number
of times and will have this conversation again. More than that, the
problem is that their definition (which comes from a ancient book based
on the US Occupational Outlook Guide) does discuss things like
whitepapers, and not much else.

Sometimes I want to bang my head against a rock.


Cardimon, Craig wrote:
> Bonnie,
> I agree with your <highly offensive and outlandish "rant">
> I've tried the "technical communicator" thing out on people. I get a
> look I can best describe as mental constipation.
> Then they say "What?" or I relieve them of their mental burden, and say,
> shrugging, "technical writer."
> In which case, they say, "Oh, well why didn't ya say so?"
> We are supposed to explain things simply and clearly, aren't we?
> To answer your question, the new title ain't makin' it, in my opinion.


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RE: What do you guys think of STC's new definition for technical writer?: From: Cardimon, Craig

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