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Subject:Re: How much do you have to know? From:Andreas Ramos <andreas -at- NETCOM -dot- COM> Date:Fri, 4 Mar 1994 08:38:31 -0800
To those who think that the more one knows about a subject means that one
will be better able to write about it, then I guess they also think that
the best technical writers will be the programmers and engineers
themselves. Just get rid of the tech writers and turn the manuals back
over to the programmers.
Well, we tried that. And the result was that the manuals were unreadable
except by other programmers.
Of course a more than passing familiarity with the subject is neccessary.
But the principle concern for a tech writer is the second part of the
title: the writer. Not the "tech". It's about communications. One has to
be planted in both camps: understand what the programmers intend, and
understand how the newbie/naive user sees (or doesn't see). The main
skill comes in communicating the nature of the material to the newbie so
that they understand it.
Being able to interview: that helps.
Being able to programm: that sometimes helps.
But those help only in understanding what the programmers and project
manangers *think* that they want the program to do. The difference in
understanding between an expert user and a naive user is not a matter of
degree. Both see the program (e.g.) in radically different ways.
On an aside, it strikes me as curious that there are now classes in
becoming a techwriter. I guess this is like classes in becoming a
novelist. How would one teach fascination with technology or skill at
writing (i.e. be able to talk about something very complicated
in a down-to-earth way)?
Andreas Ramos, M.A. Sacramento, California