Re: occupational outlook handbook

Subject: Re: occupational outlook handbook
From: "Susan W. Gallagher" <sgallagher -at- STARBASECORP -dot- COM>
Date: Tue, 13 Dec 1994 17:43:54 -0800

Comments and comments on comments...

> >"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
> >accurate?

> 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
> classified as "manuals."

The definition also seems to exclude the communication aspects of our jobs that
never make it to paper. I have a hard time finding ways to include online help;
online documentation; and onscreen prompts, messages, and labels in this

> 2. The second sentence emphasizes the use of tech writer-produced materials
> *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.

I'd be more than happy if the sales force actually used the materials I
produce to sell the product. More often than not, their brochures, ads,
etc are not even "inspired by actual events." I'm sure that none of our
prospective customers get a glimpse of my writing style until after they've
bought the product.

> 3. For some reason, the words "machinery and equipment" don't seem to apply
> 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
> the process for developing or improving a business function.

And I agree here as well. "Machinery and equipment" doesn't come close to
describing all that we write about... Software, various training processes,
scientific discoveries... "Machinery and equipment leaves out a lot!!!
> 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?

Sue Gallagher
Technical Writer
StarBase Corp, Irvine CA
sgallagher -at- starbasecorp -dot- com

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