Re: Technical vs. writing knowledge

Subject: Re: Technical vs. writing knowledge
From: Brad Mehlenbacher <brad_m -at- UNITY -dot- NCSU -dot- EDU>
Date: Thu, 11 Nov 1993 23:00:12 -0500

Steve-->Must be a terrific idea for a paper, 'cause no one seems to have
answered your call for 'research' on what type of knowledge (technical or
otherwise) produces technical communicators who are able to quickly
document complex products in real-world settings under tremendous time

The argument between hiring engineers who can write versus writers who can
learn engineering is a well-established one. Is anyone aware of
articles/research on the issue. Interest muchly peaked!

Cheers, Brad.

>> Brad Mehlenbacher Phone: (919) 515-4138 <<
>> Assistant Professor Fax: (919) 515-7856 <<
>> Technical Communication <<
>> E-mail: brad_m -at- unity -dot- ncsu -dot- edu <<
>> English Department <<
>> NC State University "An academic is someone naive enough <<
>> Raleigh, NC 27695-8105 to beg downsized companies for money" <<

> 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
> 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
> 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
> 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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