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Subject:Re: SGML & The Technical Writer From:Sue Stewart <suepstewrt -at- AOL -dot- COM> Date:Mon, 11 Apr 1994 00:37:15 EDT
Gerry Bourguignon writes:
>>In a popular introductory book on SGML entitled "Practical SGML" by Eric
>>van Herwijnen, the author says: "Authors are subject matter experts for
>>whom it is a waste of time to be concerned with typography or document
>>layout. Some call it creativity, but inside organizations where the author
>>has free reign over format the result is usually an incoherent collection
>>of badly looking documents."
>>Do you agree with this statement?<<
Yes and No. The incoherent collection is usually the result of someone who
became a tech writer without any training in presentation, learning theory,
and/or readability. van Herwijnen apparently assumes these poorly presented
documents are adequately WRITTEN, but usually poor presentation and poor
writing go hand in hand.
The problem with this approach, and with SGML, is that it subordinates the
user to the hardware. Different information must be presented differently
for the user to best understand and assimilate it, but this doesn't matter to
SGML, because the tag rules.
If engineers feel tech writers are "clerical," I would hate to see the
documentation being produced. A doc which simply regurgitates the engineer's
words with corrected grammar and in some special format is, plain and simple,
bad doc. Users are, for the most part, NOT engineers. NOT programmers. NOT
analysts. NOT SMEs--that's why they need the doc. It is my job to take
information from SMEs and present it in language and at a level that non-SMEs
can read, comprehend, and USE.
Goodness, I'll step off the soapbox. suepstewrt -at- aol -dot- com