SGML & The Technical Writer

Subject: SGML & The Technical Writer
From: Steve Owens <uso01 -at- EAGLE -dot- UNIDATA -dot- COM>
Date: Mon, 11 Apr 1994 11:51:46 +0700

> >> 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.

Actually, if you'll examine the quoted paragraph more closely,
you'll see that van Herwijnen is talking about an incoherent
collection of documents within an organization, presumably from
different authors writing at different times. "Badly looking", in
addition, is probably meant to refer to the lack of professional
design in the document formats at the individual level.

I don't think anything in the paragraph implies technical
writers - he's talking about Subject Matter Experts who are required
(because it's part of their job, or simply because there's nobody else
on hand to do it right) to document something they're involved in.

Which doesn't have much to do with what SGML is really about,
since any single markup language with a set of tags, or any single set
of styles or paragraph formats used as a standard within the
organization would solve this problem.

Steven J. Owens
uso01 -at- unidata -dot- com

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