Re: Documentation plan? and Degree?

Subject: Re: Documentation plan? and Degree?
From: Fred Wersan <wersan -at- ZEUS -dot- MA30 -dot- BULL -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 1 Dec 1993 08:30:58 EST

> What is a documentation plan? (I've been looking at job ads,
> and some of them require the ability to make one of these.)

> Karen Kay
> karenk -at- netcom -dot- com

The responses to this question have been direct and to the point, but I think
they have overlooked an issue related to the thread on getting a degree. One of
the things you expect to get from a degree or certificate program is an
understanding of the basics of the profession, such as what is a doc plan.

After all, would you look for a job as an architect if you don't know what a
blueprint is? Would you look for a job as a lawyer if you don't know what a
brief is? Would you look for a job as an English professor if you've never read

If you are going to hang up your shingle as a tech writer and you haven't picked
up the basics, either through an educational program or OJT, you have an
obligation to provide yourself with the necessary tools through self education.
Asking questions on this list, although helpful, is not enough.
Almost any basic text on technical writing talks about a documentation plan of
some sort. If you are asking this question, I have to assume you haven't been
exposed to any of these texts.

So in an effort to provide Karen with a fishing hook, rather than a fish,
here is one version of a basic bookshelf:

Brockman, J. "Writing Better Computer User Documentation"
Weiss, E. "How to Write a Usable User Manual"
(both the above are in 2nd edition)
Brusaw (? someone will correct me if I'm wrong) "Handbook of Technical Writing"
Horton, W. almost anything he's written is worth reading.
Strunk and White "Elements of Style" - the basics

I'm sure everyone has their favorites. These are general texts.

The tech writing profession still faces challenges from many people who think
that we are not worth what we are paid and that anyone can do it. One way to
change this is to encourage anyone who wants to join our ranks to learn the
basic skills before they start looking for work, not after they've got the job.

Disclaimer: If I've made any unwarranted personal assumptions, I apologize.
Beyond any particular individual, I think my comments are valid.

Fred Wersan
Bull HN Informations Systems
300 Concord Rd.
Billerica, Mass. 01821
f -dot- wersan -at- bull -dot- com

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