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

Subject: Re: If you are not a tech writer...
From: Peter Montgomery <MONTGOMERY -at- CAMINS -dot- CAMOSUN -dot- BC -dot- CA>
Date: Wed, 5 May 1993 23:20:48 -0700

> Date: Wed, 05 May 1993 08:46:15 -0500 Thus spake Len Olszewski
<saslpo -at- UNX -dot- SAS -dot- COM>

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

It is definitely accepted informal usage in speech, but it weakens
that preciseness you have said you value in what you call technical
writing. Enough said. I don't mean to rub the point in.

LO>You (and I mean 'you') make the point that one need not be paid to write
LO>in order to be a professional writer. I think we may each be speaking
LO>from different cultural contexts. Where I am, when one says one is a
LO>professional anything, one implies one is paid for one's services. I
LO>use "professional" to mean "as one's profession, or principal
LO>occupation". I suppose one can have a principal occupation that doesn't
LO>pay anything, but that's still a different meaning than how you use the
In my context, a professional is one who works to a standard, as opposed
to an amateur who does it for fun, good or bad. Obviously most professionals
get paid for their work, but being paid for it is not at the essence of
being a professional. There are lots of people who get paid for their
writing but whom I would consider far from being professionals. The reporters
and editors of our local newspaper would be a case in point. In so far as
Technical Writing aims at setting up and maintaining high standards
(eg. the important debates on user accessibility of documentation). it
seems to me it is in the context of professional writing.

LO>I agree that kinds of writing you describe cannot be accurately
LO>described as "technical writing". Career Writing sounds like a better
It would be interesting to hear what others think.

LO>description than either technical writing, or professional writing. From
LO>your perspective, what characterizes any given writing as technical
LO>I'm still not sure how writing to fill out forms exhibits construction,
LO>content or continuity.

I don't see how filling out forms, other than short report forms perhaps,
exhibit construction, content or continuity either. The teachers in our
technical programs, as far as I can see, are saying their students don't
need such skills. Surveys of graduates of our technical (specifically,
electrical,electronic,civil & structural, and architectural) programs
would seem to indicate (if the results haven't been skewed) that for
the most part those people have very little writing to do at all. Thus,
the teachers don't want a conceptually oriented writing course for them.
We don't have a program to train writers for the documentation that is
needed in those areas, but I suspect that is what we would call a
technical writing program.

LO> Or why human services narrative necessarily
LO>should demonstrate conciseness or consistency.
Nurses have to do continuous reporting of a very specialised, distinctive
character. Nursing students have, in the process of learning their skills,
have to keep a set of what are called progress notes -- basically seven
running, concurrent narratives of their experiences. The need for
clarity and concision under such circumstances is critical.

LO> My point is that any of
LO> these qualities improves most writing, but that all of these qualities
LO> usually distinguish good technical writing.
This is unfair to a whole lot of writers in academic fields, because
for them such qualities distinguish good academic writing, just as the
subjectiveness you are wary of, is considered a weakness in much
academic writing.

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

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