Re: occupational outlook handbook

Subject: Re: occupational outlook handbook
From: "Christopher M. Fisher" <Christopher_M_Fisher -at- ANDERSEN -dot- COM>
Date: Tue, 13 Dec 1994 19:04:46 CS

>"Technical writers put scientific and technical information into readily
>understandable language. They prepare manuals, catalogs, parts lists, and
>instructional materials used by sales representatives to sell a wide variety
>of machinery and equipment and by technicians to install, maintain, and
>service it (U.S . Dept. of Labor 186)."

>As a technical writer yourself, do you think this statement is true and

A few quick thoughts on this definition:

1. I think that using a catch-all term like "instructional materials," and
placing said term at the end of the list of things that tech writers prepare,
is a little misleading. I think that today's tech writer is expected to be
something of a training expert; almost all of the documentation that I produce
could be described as "instructional materials," but very little of it could be
classified as "manuals."

2. The second sentence emphasizes the use of tech writer-produced materials to
*sell* products, which I think misrepresents our profession. The STC Code for
Communicators states that we should "satisfy the audience's need for
information," and unless you view the organization that owns the
product/process being documented as the most important member of your
audience--and there may be a good argument for this in some cases--I don't
think that you should write primarily to satisfy that organization.

3. For some reason, the words "machinery and equipment" don't seem to apply to
software products; maybe it's just me. These words are also inadequate to
describe any process that isn't related to operating a physical object, such as
the process for developing or improving a business function.

Granted, most of these issues are more concerned with connotation than
denotation, but they just popped into my head and I had to write 'em down
*somewhere*. Rebuttals?

Christopher Fisher
Communication Specialist cfisher -at- andersen -dot- com
Andersen Consulting
"'The question is,' said Alice, 'whether you _can_ make words
mean so many different things.' 'The question is,' said Humpty
Dumpty, 'which is to be master--that's all.'" --Lewis Carroll

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