Re: What students should know

Subject: Re: What students should know
From: David Nadziejka <NADZIEJKA -at- ANLBEM -dot- BIM -dot- ANL -dot- GOV>
Date: Wed, 28 Apr 1993 15:26:49 -0500

Here are a couple of things I wish the authors I edit for had learned
in a tech writing class.

1) Writing is less an act of putting words on paper or a screen than
it is a process. The process involves drafting and then revision (usually
revisionS) to produce a final document that is close to what is needed. The
earlier in the process that the author can get some feedback (from peers or
from an editor), the better, because major changes are really hard to face
once a writer thinks the document is done.

2) No matter how carefully a writer writes, it is always the reader who
decides if the prose is good; i.e., does the message come across or not?
In my classes for science and engineering grad students, I found that
the best way to persuade the students that this was true was to have them
critique each other's drafts and revisions. Most of the students were
continually amazed that ANOTHER ENGINEER couldn't understand what they had

Most of the technical students I've taught had decent command of English,
despite the handicap of a sack-full of faulty "rules." They needed the
two perspectives above a lot more than they needed better basic grammar.

David Nadziejka
Managing Technical Editor
Argonne National Laboratory
nadziejka -at- anlbem -dot- bim -dot- anl -dot- gov

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