Re: "Surviving the Dying Career of Technical Writing"

Subject: Re: "Surviving the Dying Career of Technical Writing"
From: "Monique Semp" <monique -dot- semp -at- earthlink -dot- net>
To: <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 21 Mar 2016 17:00:56 -0700

Remember the 90s, when it was really easy for anyone who could string words together into a halfway coherent paragraph to get a job as a tech writer ...

Ignoring the last part of the statement, ("and have developers throw stuff over a wall to be formatted and edited? We often called them "glorified secretaries," before we stopped using "secretary" altogether")...

I (and those few other programmers-turned-tech-writers) benefitted from those times!

I was hired as a "Senior" tech writer for my very first tech writing job because a flexible (ok, maybe she was just desperate) tech pubs manager was willing to hire a programmer who could write a coherent paragraph :-). And happily, those were the days of companies having whole teams of writers, so there were mentors available to teach me, and sufficient staff to be productive while new writers were being trained.

I think a terrible change in the profession -- well, in the software industry as a whole, so programmers, managers, etc. -- is that so many companies expect one or two writers to handle so much work and be a jack-of-all-trades. They want writers who can program, but don't much care that they have programmers who can't write (or won't even talk to writers). So with the demands on the writer, it's impossible to hire a junior writer (as I really was when it came to writing; just not when it came to domain knowledge) and take the time to train them. It seems now that new writers are expected to magically figure it all out without any guidance.

That impossible scenario contributes to many engineers' low opinion of tech writers, which is more than a cryin' shame. Nobody expects a "lone programmer" to be excellent. Indeed, they could (disparagingly) be called "cowboys".

Hmm... no real conclusion here, so I guess I just wanted to point out that those with domain knowledge who can write decently can be taught to be excellent writers. And so the tech writing field is certainly showing no signs of dying when viewed in this context.

-Monique

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Follow-Ups:

References:
"Surviving the Dying Career of Technical Writing": From: Cardimon, Craig
RE: "Surviving the Dying Career of Technical Writing": From: Dan Goldstein
Re: "Surviving the Dying Career of Technical Writing": From: Lauren
Re: "Surviving the Dying Career of Technical Writing": From: Gene Kim-Eng

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