Re: STC certification program

Subject: Re: STC certification program
From: "Peter Neilson" <neilson -at- windstream -dot- net>
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Date: Wed, 19 Oct 2011 08:06:34 -0400

On Wed, 19 Oct 2011 01:16:46 -0400, Steven Jong <stevefjong -at- comcast -dot- net> wrote:

A new TW just starting out won't qualify to apply; the certification requires a combination of education and experience.

Over the years the best tech writers I have encountered have come from a wide area of education and experience. Some had no college degree; many had a PhD in a "totally unrelated" subject. Many knew nothing whatever about technical material, at least when they entered tech writing. One was an ex-cop.

Of the worst I have known, one had a tremendous portfolio of material written entirely by others, one had a degree in technical communication from a well-known college, and one served as a chapter president for a professional society.

Some writers have a blend of brilliant critical insight and inexcusable flakiness; they shine on one project and completely ruin another. Or even do both at the same time. On the other hand, some writers fail to complete their assigned tasks because the project is dropped, or is transmogrified into impossibility.

I'm really at a loss in figuring out how one would justly approve or deny people for TW certification.

My wife's field is quality engineering. She has found that a particular set of knowledge in statistics and science really does apply across most production environments. She's done quality in ceramics, plastics, pharmaceuticals, and other areas. When I asked her how she would design quality engineering for software, she targeted several correct approaches with no prior knowledge of software design.

Her certification society, ASQ, has a requirement of "continuing education" for recertification. After several years it became very difficult for her to find any courses at all that she could take. Not everyone lives near a university, and some local community colleges offer nothing more challenging than accounting. Indeed, I look at our college's catalog every semester hoping to find something worthwhile in computer science or mathematics. There is nothing beyond "Using MS Word" and "Introductory Algebra." I could teach courses at the community college except for one difficulty--in order to maintain high standards, they require a Master's degree. That seems to be the ed-biz certification. As a result, their entrenched faculty are not very good. My wife found herself running after-class tutorials for her fellow students in accounting.

As for TW jobs requiring some sort of certification, I have seen two such requirements:
(1) Secret or TS clearance.
(2) Certification in written English.

You can't go and "get" a clearance ahead of time. If a prior clearance is required, the door is closed to those lacking one. And the Written English cert is apparently handed out by some college overseas to their students who pass an exam. You can't go and "get" one. Moreover, it has nothing to do with ability to do good tech writing.

So I am still wondering, precisely what standards will be in the STC certification? ASQ tests for knowledge of statistics. Either you know means and standard deviations, or you don't. You know chi-squared, or you don't. Will STC check that we don't use prepositions to end our sentences up with? Or apply the Flesch-Kincaid index to our writing samples? What tests are actually proposed?

Here is a paragraph with a Flesch Grade level of 2. Its Reading Ease score is 89. You can see that it is good. The score is second grade. That is a good score. See Spot run. Run, Spot, run. Run, run, run.

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RE: STC certification program: From: Steven Jong

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