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 does a Tech Writer do .... From:Sally Marquigny <SALLYM -at- MSMAILHQ -dot- NETIMAGE -dot- COM> Date:Wed, 7 Sep 1994 13:15:00 PDT
Hey, wait a minute! Am I way off base or isn't our field's purpose to
*elucidate* the mysteries of the technical world? Why not be *honest* (how
refreshing) and tell them, "I don't really know any more about microwaves
than you do because I write books about ABC brand widgets. But you're
right; this manual is extremely confusing to a layperson. I would suggest
you call the toll-free hotline listed in the front matter..."? Personally,
I'm so tired of computer people who wave wands and pronounce mumbo jumbo &
proceed to further screw up your system (and your mind). *That's* exactly
*why* I went into the training field & then into tech writing--to get rid of
the smoke & mirrors.
Sally Marquigny Network Imaging Systems
sallym -at- msmailhq -dot- netimage -dot- com Herndon, VA
To: Multiple recipients of list TECHWR-L
Subject: Re: What does a Tech Writer do ....
Date: Wednesday, September 07, 1994 11:49AM
Julie wrote the following as typical responses when she announces that she
writes computer user pubs:
>O really? I just bought a <PREHISTORIC PC I'VE NEVER HEARD OF> for
>10 quid at a car boot sale last weekend and can't get it to work.
>Perhaps you could come round and have a look at it ...
>Well I hope you write better manuals than the one that came with my
>[washing machine|video|microwave]... Here... Can YOU figure out how
>to make it do a 40 degree eco half load cycle with a pre-wash
>and 800 RMP spin from THIS...?
> [On this one, usually I (a) suggest they use the washing machine and not
>the microwave to achive this, (b) smile weakly, and (c) try to slither
>away, but it doesn't always work.]
Of course I get responses like this , too! I always frown in thought,
inspect whatever document they hand me, take a careful look at the
fridge/microwave/computer, check the connectors in the back, explain some
tremendously complicated jargon to them ("alternating current," "386
enhanced mode," "alternator brushes," etc) and even fix the thing if I can.
But if I can't, I just sigh very heavily and say, "Well, I know enough to
see you've got a problem, but I just write the pubs. You really ought to
have a tech look at it."
Hey, they are tremendously impressed by the time I am through. And building
respect is the name of the game! : ) A little theatrical training helps!
(After all, these are the people who just might need a tech writer some day
. . . . )