Re: If you are not a tech writer...

Subject: Re: If you are not a tech writer...
From: Len Olszewski <saslpo -at- UNX -dot- SAS -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 5 May 1993 08:46:15 -0500

In response to the message from Peter Montgomery:

> > Date: Tue, 04 May 1993 08:36:35 -0500 Thus spake Len Olszewski
> <saslpo -at- UNX -dot- SAS -dot- COM>

> Without context, I'm not sure that a mere dictionary definition will
> help much. Obviously the definition of technical writing that I am
> familiar with is diffeent from that used here.

Yes, there does seem to be a difference in how you and I each define the
term. I'd be interested in the context and definition of technical
writing with which you are familiar. Most of what you say in your
message describes writing forms you think are inadequately described by
the term "technical writing". That's fine; what kind of writing do you
think fits the description?

> LO>As I understand it, you become a professional writer when you write for
> LO>money. The gist of this is that you can be a *professional* writer and

> As I understand it ( and I don't profess to speak for 'you'), a professional
> writer is one who professes to know how to write, whetjer one gets paid
> for that writing or not.

First, I'm sorry that I seemed to be speaking for 'you'. I use second
person sometimes rather that saying something like "one becomes a
professional when one writes for money", since it seems a little less
affected. Nothing personal. I have a hard enough time speaking for
myself (as if this wasn't painfully obvious 8-).

You (and I mean 'you') make the point that one need not be paid to write
in order to be a professional writer. I think we may each be speaking
from different cultural contexts. Where I am, when one says one is a
professional anything, one implies one is paid for one's services. I
use "professional" to mean "as one's profession, or principal
occupation". I suppose one can have a principal occupation that doesn't
pay anything, but that's still a different meaning than how you use the

[...deletion of a list of occupations requiring different writing

> This brief survey of different aspects of the situation, indicates to
> some extent, why I find the name 'techinical writing' quite inadequate
> to describe the kinds of interest in writing involved in our context.
> An alternative name that comes to mind, is Career Writing.

I agree that kinds of writing you describe cannot be accurately
described as "technical writing". Career Writing sounds like a better
description than either technical writing, or professional writing. From
your perspective, what characterizes any given writing as technical

> LO>writing should demonstrate correctness, clarity, conciseness,
> LO>consistency, continuity, construction and content, the so-called
> LO>"7 C's". Other writing might improve if writers incorporated any subset

> We would associate these writing concerns with ALL froms of writing, not
> just with writing for one of our engineering programs --- our engineering
> program people being the only ones asking for techinical writing courses
> for their students (and the only ones not conerned about their students
> going on to university).

I'm still not sure how writing to fill out forms exhibits construction,
content or continuity. Or why human services narrative necessarily
should demonstrate conciseness or consistency. My point is that any of
these qualities improves most writing, but that all of these qualities
usually distinguish good technical writing.

> *************************************************************
> * Peter Montgomery Montgomery -at- camosun -dot- bc -dot- ca *
> * Exitus effigium effigies exituum *
> *************************************************************

|Len Olszewski, Technical Writer |"You can observe a lot by watching."|
|saslpo -at- unx -dot- sas -dot- com|Cary, NC, USA| - Yogi Berra |
| Opinions this ludicrous are mine. Reasonable opinions will cost you.|

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