Re: Technical vs. writing knowledge

Subject: Re: Technical vs. writing knowledge
From: "Chuck Petch, Editor" <PETCH -at- GVG47 -dot- GVG -dot- TEK -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 11 Nov 1993 13:44:29 -0700

I think tech writers need a basic foundation in the technical subject they
write about and expert writing skills.

High level technical knowledge doesn't give a major advantage because the
writer still must interview designers to gain a full understanding of the
product or subject. But a solid foundation in the technical subject does
enable the writer to communicate with designers in their own language, which
speeds and enhances the learning process.

Writing skill, on the other hand, is crucial to a writer's ability to produce a
concise, smoothly-written, understandable document. Therefore, IMHO, technical
writers should be expert writers, first and foremost. In fact, I think a
bachelor's degree in Technical Writing, English, or Journalism should be the
minimum requirement.

Personally, I am appalled at the large number of technical writers I've met who
have only passable writing skills and don't show much interest in advancing
those skills beyond attending an occasional seminar. Usually these are
technical people who have shifted over to technical writing. I realize I'm
using a broad brush here, but it has been true in my experience.

In general, I believe a trained writer who gains a full understanding of the
product or subject can write rings around a technical expert who "writes well."
I wish more hiring managers would elevate the status of our profession by
making a degree in some form of writing a minimum requirement.

(Sorry to sound so opinionated, but this has been a pet peeve of mine for a
long time, and it's great to have an opportunity to express it.)

Chuck Petch, | "Get your facts first, and then you can distort
Technical Editor | them as much as you please."
"Petch -at- gvg47 -dot- gvg -dot- tek -dot- com" | -Mark Twain

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