Re: What and Why (was Nazi Rhetoric)

Subject: Re: What and Why (was Nazi Rhetoric)
From: Stuart Selber <sselber -at- MTU -dot- EDU>
Date: Thu, 7 Oct 1993 13:34:41 -0400

Simon North writes:

[stuff deleted]

>A question for you Stuart ... if the 'what' is wrong, how on Earth can it be
>either usable or useful (a manual on MS-DOS that describes the usage of Unix,
>the mind boggles!)?

>... as for the how and the why, surely the two are so tightly connected that
>they cannot even be considered as separate entities? I must know why you want
>the information (i.e. what you intend/are supposed to do with it) in order to
>present it in the right manner.

[stuff deleted]

Simon - I agree with your feeling that the what, why, and how of most
pieces of technical communication are often so tightly related that it
seems arbitrary and abstract to talk about them separately at times
(although I think we can to varying degrees). My point, which I was
probably less than clear about, is that as technical communiators we should
concern ourselves intimately with the subject matter of our projects and
the missions of our companies. One problem, as stated so clearly by someone
earlier (sorry, I don't have the post handy), we don't often feel that
we're in a positon to address or respond to broader issues of concern. Or
we're so busy with our day-to-day work that we must ignore issues beyond
meeting a deadline. Very real feelings, indeed. I guess I'm concerned about
those feelings of powerlessness many communicators have in their
corporations. And I'm afraid that when we start focusing so heavily on
day-to-day work that we ignore, are unwilling, or can't discuss the
humanistic issues *directly* relating to the work of technical
communication, we're making a bad trade.


Stuart A. Selber
Department of Humanities email: sselber -at- mtu -dot- edu
Michigan Technological University phone: 906-487-3252
Houghton, MI 49931 fax: 906-487-3347

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