Subject: Novelists
From: Steve Bannister <0004828598 -at- MCIMAIL -dot- COM>
Date: Sun, 11 Apr 1993 17:53:00 GMT

Gerard has said:

> In my opinion a novelist is a much better candidate
> for an effective technical writer than would be
> an engineer or technical type.

Maybe, but don't forget that some techies are capable writers.

> It seems to me that many technical types do not understand
> that their audience may be unfamiliar with key concepts
> and thus fail to properly develop the context
> within which the material being presented
> can be readily grasped.

This is too often true when techies are writing for general audiences.

> A novel requires extensive development of key ideas
> such as setting, characters, background, etc.
> and anyone who can be considered a novelist
> must know how to develop this 'context'
> in as palatable a manner as practical.

I'm a subscriber to this list because I believe that technical writing
is a valuable skill for scientists, and because the writing skills of
most scientists _ARE MISERABLE_!!!

> In my experience, some technical types are contemptuous of
> the general public's ignorance of technical issues.

Some are, and we are going to execute them all. The public's impression
of scientists is revealed by the frequency with which "mad" precedes

> Not a good attitude to approach one's work with...

And, it's not accidental. We protect our turf with obscure jargon. That
which is made arcane...

But, the plan is not working very well. Gerard, and too many others,
have seen through it. Nuts!!

I'm a "technical type," and am employed principally as a technologist
rather than a writer. By necessity, and with enthusiasm if not skill, I
write. I write to (or speak to) several groups: other scientists via
peer-reviewed journals; other technical managers via internal company
documents; students in my occasional academic adventures; and the
general public via company-supported community awareness programs.

Science doesn't exclude communication skills. Scientists do. Techies
can be trained to write well. I believe that it is the most often
overlooked career-enhancing skill for scientists. If they ignore it,
shame on them.

Michael Crichton and others have redirected their careers from science
and medicine into writing fiction about science and medicine.
Others have moved more drastically. Jerry Punch, MD, has become Dr.
Jerry Punch, the most lucid television-network motorsports commentator.

Far too few scientists develop their writing skills to a level which
would be judged adequate by their high-school teachers. Those that do
are rewarded nicely, even if they don't go to work for ESPN.

Steve J. Bannister, PhD
Sandoz Research Institute
East Hanover, New Jersey 07936
sbannister -at- mcimail -dot- com

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