TechWhirl (TECHWR-L) is a resource for technical writing and technical communications professionals of all experience levels and in all industries to share their experiences and acquire information.
For two decades, technical communicators have turned to TechWhirl to ask and answer questions about the always-changing world of technical communications, such as tools, skills, career paths, methodologies, and emerging industries. The TechWhirl Archives and magazine, created for, by and about technical writers, offer a wealth of knowledge to everyone with an interest in any aspect of technical communications.
Subject:Re: What is the tool of choice? From:Jim Grey <jwg -at- ACD4 -dot- ACD -dot- COM> Date:Tue, 28 Dec 1993 13:49:59 -0500
Jonathan Leer had this to say:
>I believe that desktop publishing has certainly given the power of the press
>to the public but it has also reduced the concept of a technical writer as
>being an expert and professional. Certainly I am appalled that recruiters
>present a project to a senior writing consultant who has extensive experience
>in the product technical area as well as years of experience with various
>writing and illustration tools and says that the client won't use anyone
>who does not have recent experience using nroff/troff or AMIPro. As if
>a 3 month training course in Pagemaker will change anybody into a proficient
I spent some time last summer looking for another job. I found that while
every company listed some sort of tool requirements (WordPerfect seemed to be
the most popular), none of them were too concerned that I've never used that
tool. I always listed "Interleaf 5 and Microsoft Word" on my cover letter;
most interviewers were happy that I'd had experience with those kinds of
On the other side, though, my company has gone Interleaf-crazy. We have this
notion that Interleaf is just sooooooo difficult to learn. ("We" does not
include "me".) We're looking to replace a writer who left in November, and
discussions reveal a strong sentiment that the writer be already proficient
in Interleaf, so there's less "ramp-up time". I guess I understand this.
We have the age-old problem of not planning well enough ahead; we need to
drop someone into this job as if they'd already been working here five years.
But I claim that any experienced writer we hire will be able to become
"functionally fluent" in Interleaf inside a week.
>So, to sum it up, the more we sell the concept of hire the "writer" rather
>than hire the tool user, the better our lot as technical writers will become.
I regularly have to gently remind my superiors that I'm a writer who happens
to have become very good with Interleaf, not an Interleaf user who happens
to write our user manuals. "Here, can you draw this for a 10:00 meeting?"
I've heard some rumbling on this list more than once that you folks resent
being used as glorified secretaries. When a company hires a tool user, a
glorified secretary is all they were looking for.