Re: publicity: tech. writing in America

Subject: Re: publicity: tech. writing in America
From: Debbie Campbell <dcamp -at- CS -dot- RICE -dot- EDU>
Date: Tue, 6 Sep 1994 09:09:56 -0600

Hi Sandra,

My response to your posting about tech. writing in America got a little long,
so I thought I'd preface it with a summary:

I. One Problem - "Technical writing, what's that?!"
II. Another Problem - credentials vary
III. My Solution - stay informed and lead workshops

I. One Problem

I have found that most people in the States are unaware of our profession.
In fact, it was only a few years ago that I first learned about technical
writing. When a friend suggested that I consider getting into technical
writing, I said, "Technical writing, what's that?!" When she explained, I
replied, "Oh, come on, nobody's gonna pay me to write!" When she insisted
that people do indeed get paid to write, I began looking into it and found
a whole "undiscovered country."

II. Another Problem

Another problem facing tech. writers on this side of the pond is that the
credentials of people who call themselves technical writers vary greatly. In
my investigation of the field, I was surprised to learn that you can get a
Ph.D. in technical writing, although I can't say that I know anyone who holds
that degree. At the other end of the spectrum, we have people like the young
woman -- *a potential supervisor* -- I met during a job interview:

[begin East Texas accent]

Well, ah didn't go to college; ah fell in luv, got married, and had
bay-bies; but ah can yews the computer real good, so they're gonna
mayke me a technical writer."

[end East Texas accent]

I wanted to run screaming, but I simply smiled and later turned down their

III. My Solution

I'm sure other writers will tell you what they're doing to solve these
problems. Here are my solutions:

(1) I try to keep up with the latest challenges facing tech. writers.
Following this newsgroup, attending seminars, and belonging to STC helps.

(2) I "force" the researchers, programmers, and students I work around
to attend a series of informal workshops on technical communication.
Like me a few years ago, these people have no idea what tech. writers
do. Furthermore, they were trained, as most of us were, in the literary
style and have no concept of minimalism, multiculturalism, E-prime, etc.

(3) Once a year, I attend a conference for junior high school girls, where
women from all professions present workshops on the various opportunities
available to young women today. (This conference is sponsored by the
American Association of University Women (AAUW).)

I'm looking forward to reading about other writers' solutions.

Debbie Campbell (dcamp -at- cs -dot- rice -dot- edu)
[title depends on the time of day ;-)]

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