Re: Technical vs. writing knowledge

Subject: Re: Technical vs. writing knowledge
From: Randy Allen Harris <raha -at- WATARTS -dot- UWATERLOO -dot- CA>
Date: Thu, 11 Nov 1993 17:41:17 -0500

My response is completely opposite with Brian's in principle, though it
converges a bit in practice.

Responding to Steve's query,

>What knowledge is best for technical writers: technical or writing

Brian said several things, including,

>if I was hiring and had my druthers between someone
>with an adequate writing background and extensive technical background and
>someone with adequate technical background and extensive writing background
>(assuming all else was equal), I'd have to favor the person with the
>extensive technical background.

If I was hiring (in fact, *when* I was hiring), I drother(ed) people with
good communication skills over technical experts. In general, it's easier
to teach the technology to someone with good communicative abilities than
it is to teach communicative abilities to technical experts.

In part, that has to do with the sorts of technical writing I've been
involved in, where the users of the technology (therefore, the
documentation) were technically very distant from the designers of the
technology, and the technical experts had a much harder time bridging that
gap than the communication experts. In part, it's probably bias, since my
background is on the communication side.

That said, however, experts in communication increasingly need to be
experts in the *communication* technology Brian cites (CD-ROM, online
systems, hypertextificationism, ...), as well as the more traditional
communication technologies (layout, typeface, using tables, ...).

I'll stop, since I've gone on so long you've already quit reading.

-------======= * =======-------
Randy Allen Harris
raha -at- watarts -dot- uwaterloo -dot- ca

Rhetoric and Professional Writing, Department of English, University of
Waterloo, Waterloo ON N2L 3G1, CANADA; 519 885-1211, x5362; FAX: 519 884-8995

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