Re: Background

Subject: Re: Background
From: Glen Accardo <glen -at- SOFTINT -dot- COM>
Date: Tue, 1 Nov 1994 13:24:47 -0600

> What do you find is the best combination between technical knowledge and
> composition experience? In other words, should an aspiring technical
> writer/educator strive to be more versed on computer science fundamentals or
> advanced grammar?

I think the real answer lies in how you define technical writing. In my
case, I start with an empty page, research everything necessary, then
write "how to" instructions. I write this about software. Obviously
software isn't as important to writers in medical, legal, or engineering
fields, but you still need to know computers well enough to accomplish
the writing, drafting, and publishing duties required.

The single, most critical skill in my case is understanding software. Put
simply, if you don't know what you are saying, you can't say it. This is
true of ANY writing. If an author is a bad writer, the prose may be a
bit stilted, but it carries weight if the author is knowledgable about
the field.

I have seen companies (and wouldn't work for them) where technical writers
redo what engineers or software developers write. They may add a few
pictures, but mostly they fix commas, apply formats, and print. Does this
type of work require an in-depth understanding of the subject area? My
personal opinion is no, but is based only on the cases I've seen.

However, editors require a few more skills. They need a deep understanding
of the subject and a deep understanding of grammar and usage. This is
essentially the only way they can truely refine a document to the highest

To answer your question, do what you do best. The market for technical
writers contains a fairly wide spectrum of talents. Given a good mix
of skills, and excellence in one or more areas, you should find an
accomdating employer.

glen accardo glen -at- softint -dot- com
Software Interfaces, Inc. (713) 492-0707 x122
Houston, TX 77084

Did the Corinthians ever write back?

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