RE: Help - my consultants cannot write!

Subject: RE: Help - my consultants cannot write!
From: "Porrello, Leonard" <lporrello -at- illumina -dot- com>
To: 'John Allred' <jack -at- allrednet -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 10 Oct 2011 22:59:09 +0000

I think good mechanics are highly educated, just generally not in humanities. Most of them would probably be first to admit that mechanics generally do not write well. It's not that they couldn't learn but a question of why they would want to. If someone becomes a mechanic, it probably isn't because he loves science and the arts. The idea of a highly cultured and highly literate mechanic is mostly a product of American folk mythology and Hollywood. I would wager that a few do exist, but I have never met one. Have you?

I think of the question of the value of education in terms of the 10,000 hour rule. What subjects are worth 10,000 hours?

Does it take 10,000 hours to be a mathematician, physicist, physician, or literary critic? At least. How about to be a master mechanic? I would suppose so. Does it take 10,000 hours to _master_ writing in your native language. Again, I think so, and I would add that most people never achieve mastery. After you've achieved competence as a writer (which would arguably take less than 10,000 hours), does it take 10,000 to become a technical writer? Not in my experience. (Of course, if you have no talent, you can spend your 10,000 hours and still suck.) I wonder, if you added the amount of time it takes to learn how to write to the amount of time it takes to learn the writing and technical skills necessary to do technical writing, would it add up to 10,000 hours? I think so.

The problem Plato may be facing is that he has employees who have spent 10,000 hours on their specialty but don't have the will or the bandwidth to spend the time it would take to become decent writers. They spend their time at work doing work to make the company profitable, they have lives outside of work, and they aren't interested in becoming better writers. They perceive that the ROI of becoming better writers is negligible. In this, Plato (if you are still reading), may be the solution to your problem. In the short term, use a template or employ an editor to demonstrate what you expect, and offer one-time bonuses to analysts who meet your expectations as writers. In the long run, you can have two tiers of analysts, those who can write and those for whom you need a editor. Obviously, the ones that can write will have a "senior" title and earn more than those who cannot.



-----Original Message-----
From: John Allred [mailto:jack -at- allrednet -dot- com]
Sent: Monday, October 10, 2011 2:37 PM
To: Porrello, Leonard
Cc: Michael West; Edwin Skau; techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Subject: Re: Help - my consultants cannot write!

Education is not done to a person or poured into him. Education is what a person achieves through intelligent decisions and by dint of committed effort and perseverance. It's a constantly renewed goal.

If a kid goes to college and reads only the assigned books, education will elude him, no matter what the school attests to on parchment. If a mechanic reads widely, he'll probably end up with more useful knowledge than the majority of college graduates.


Business and industry rely on certification too much in some cases.



On Oct 10, 2011, at 3:54 PM, "Porrello, Leonard" <lporrello -at- illumina -dot- com> wrote:

> I agree that "well-educated" carries the connotation that you suggest, and I too see no good reason why an engineer with a university degree shouldn't be able to write competently. I would add that it is dangerous to omit humanities from any university curriculum, and I share some of your distain for contemporary education, in which people can earn degrees in subjects that have little content in themselves, such as "education," or in which the content is highly limited and, therefore, of dubious value, such as in "ethnic studies." Anyone who graduates with a university degree should be able to write competently. On the other hand, I prefer the European model in which not everyone is expected to go to university and in which trade schools play a much greater role.
>
> I wonder if Technical Writing should be a university degree or trade school certificate. How about engineering?
>
>
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Michael West [mailto:mike -dot- west -at- bigpond -dot- com]
> Sent: Monday, October 10, 2011 12:59 PM
> To: Porrello, Leonard; 'Edwin Skau'
> Cc: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
> Subject: RE: Help - my consultants cannot write!
>
> Oh, dear. Perhaps I am a relic of a dead civilization. When I speak of a
> well-educated person, I do not mean someone who plays basketball well, nor
> do I believe the purpose of education to produce basketball players, nor in
> the world I inhabit can a person unable to write a coherent paragraph be
> regarded as a well-educated person. In the culture I live in, a
> well-educated person, whatever his or her occupational specialty, knows how
> to process, evaluate and communicate information in a manner appropriate to
> the audience and the subject matter.
>
> A "consultant" who can't write clearly and succinctly? There was a time when
> that would have been regarded as comical.
>
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Porrello, Leonard [mailto:lporrello -at- illumina -dot- com]
> Sent: Tuesday, 11 October 2011 4:19 AM
> To: 'Michael West'; 'Edwin Skau'
> Cc: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
> Subject: RE: Help - my consultants cannot write!
>
> By "different language," I thought Edwin was using "language" loosely to
> describe different modes of thinking. Some people "think" primarily
> kinesthetically; others are primarily visuospatial, auditory, olfactory,
> gustatory, and even social thinkers. Someone who is a genius at and very
> well educated in basketball may not be able to write a coherent paragraph.
> Similarly, someone who can write and even reason exceptionally well may not
> be able to do advanced mathematics well (and vice-versa). And then there is
> wisdom, which is apparently transcendent.
>

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Follow-Ups:

References:
Re: Help - my consultants cannot write!: From: Michael West
Re: Help - my consultants cannot write!: From: Edwin Skau
RE: Help - my consultants cannot write!: From: Michael West
RE: Help - my consultants cannot write!: From: Porrello, Leonard
RE: Help - my consultants cannot write!: From: Michael West
RE: Help - my consultants cannot write!: From: Porrello, Leonard
Re: Help - my consultants cannot write!: From: John Allred

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